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Fukushima episode of Netflix’s Dark Tourist sparks offence in Japan

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05 September, 2018,
Government unhappy after programme hints food in region is still contaminated with radiation and host enters clearly marked no-go zone
The recent Netflix series Dark Tourist is a grimy window into areas scarred by tragedy, providing a perspective as rare as it is compelling – but a controversial Japan-set entry in the series may have gone too far.
The country’s Reconstruction Agency is set to hold talks with the Fukushima prefectural government about a unified response to the second episode in the series, which looked at a tour for foreign visitors to some of the areas worst affected by the 2011 tsunami, earthquake and nuclear-plant disaster.
The episode raised hackles in Tokyo and Fukushima after David Farrier, the New Zealand journalist who hosts the series, was filmed eating at a restaurant in the town of Namie – a former nuclear ghost town which reopened its doors to visitors in April 2017 – and stating that he expected the food to be contaminated with radiation.
Farrier was also filmed aboard a tour bus nervously watching as the numbers on a Geiger counter continued to rise beyond levels members of the party had been told were considered safe.
At one point in the programme, which was released on July 20, a woman holding a Geiger counter says radiation levels “are higher than around Chernobyl”.
Farrier also slips away from the group without permission, and enters an abandoned game arcade within the no-go zone around the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.
The prefectural government and the Reconstruction Agency, which was set up after the disaster to oversee the nuclear clean-up and rebuilding efforts in the region, are reported to be unhappy that Farrier entered a clearly marked no-go zone and the programme’s suggestion that food in northeast Japan was not safe to eat.
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Authorities are also unhappy the programme failed to specify that the high levels of radiation initially reported in the area have fallen significantly, and only a relatively small area is still officially listed as “difficult to return to” for local residents.
“We are examining the content of the video,” a prefecture official told the Jiji news agency.
The Fukushima government declined to provide further comment on Dark Tourist or the action that it might take.
A spokesman for the Reconstruction Agency in Tokyo told the South China Morning Post a response would be prepared after consultations with the prefectural authorities.
“We would like to provide accurate knowledge and correct information about the situation surrounding radiation in Fukushima Prefecture to the domestic and international media,” the official said. “We cannot comment specifically on the Netflix case at this point.”
An estimated 100,000 foreign tourists have visited Fukushima last year, many attracted by the offer of trips described as “dark tourism”.
Authorities, however, have been working hard to get across the message that the vast majority of the Tohoku region of northeast Japan is perfectly safe to visit and that local food and produce is safe to consume.
Campaigns are also under way to rebuild export markets for local foodstuffs.
The condemnation from authorities comes as Japan acknowledges for the first time that a worker at the Fukushima plant died in 2016 from radiation exposure.
The country’s Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry ruled that compensation should be paid to the family of the man in his 50s who died from lung cancer, an official said.
The worker had spent his career working at nuclear plants around Japan and worked at the Fukushima plant at least twice after the March 2011 meltdowns. He was diagnosed with cancer in February 2016, the official said.
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September 6, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima government considers action over Dark Tourist episode

September 4, 2018
DARK Tourist has been a global hit, but officials in Japan are not happy with scenes in this episode.
ITS willingness to boldly take audiences to some of the most offbeat, off-putting and downright disturbing places on the planet has made the Netflix series Dark Tourist a global sensation.
The first season of the groundbreaking documentary series, which was released in July, follows host David Farrier’s excursions to grim locations, from a forbidden ghost city on Cyprus to the Milwaukee sites where serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer murdered his victims.
But the series has landed in hot water due to its second episode that was filmed in Japan.
There, government officials are considering taking action against Netflix over footage from inside Fukushima, which was devastated by an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
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The second episode of Dark Tourist sees host David Farrier on a nuclear bus tour in Fukushima.
 
In the episode, Farrier, a New Zealand journalist, takes a bus tour with other foreign sightseers into areas affected by the catastrophic nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
 
The bus passes radioactive exclusion zones and Farrier and the other tourists become increasingly nervous by the skyrocketing readings on their Geiger counters, which measure radiation.
At one point in the episode, the reading is 50 times higher than levels deemed to be safe.
In another scene, the group visits a local restaurant where Farrier is concerned about eating locally sourced food that may be contaminated.
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Farrier was unsure about eating local food.
 
In another, he comes close to being arrested after sneaking into an abandoned arcade that was deemed a no-go zone by the government.
Now, officials from the Fukushima Prefectural Government said they are investigating the Dark Tourist episode, concerned it would “fuel unreasonable fears related to the March 2011 disaster at Tokyo’s Electric’s tsunami-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant”.
A senior government official told The Japan Times they are working with the Reconstruction Agency in considering how to respond to the footage.
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The camera followed Farrier as he broke away from the tour group and entered an off-limits arcade.
 
“We’re examining the video content,” the official said.
The three issues of apparent concern to officials were Farrier being worried about eating the restaurant’s food, his visit to the off-limits arcade, and the exact location of the bus not being specified when the high radiation readings alarmed the tourists.
Farrier previously said it was “super disconcerting” to visit the areas affected by the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
“Essentially, you’re in the middle of a microwave,” he told the New Zealand Herald.
“You can’t feel anything but this device is telling you that the radiation is way higher than is safe.”
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In the episode, Farrier and the other tourists are concerned about the readings on their Geiger counters.
 
Hundreds of thousands of people fled for their lives when a tsunami swept through Fukushima and set off three nuclear meltdowns at the Daiichi power plant, exposing the region to radioactive material.
The Japanese government has deemed some of the affected areas to be safe to return to, but many remain abandoned. Other areas are still designated as off limits.
But Fukushima’s perceived nuclear danger and its eerie setting have made it one of the world’s most popular drawcards for “dark tourists” — travellers who seek out locations with disturbing histories and associations with death and tragedy.
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Although dark tourism is booming, many area of Fukushima remain no-go zones.
 
So-called nuclear tourism attracted about 94,000 overseas visitors to Fukushima in 2017.
Similar nuclear tours operate in the Ukrainian ghost town of Pripyat, which has been a radioactive wasteland since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade urges Australian travellers to exercise a high degree of caution in Areas 1 and 2 near the Fukushima Daiichi power plant and advises against all travel to Area 3 due to “very high” health and safety risks.

September 6, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Japan’s Fukushima Considering Action Over Netflix’s ‘Dark Tourist’ Nuclear Episode

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August 3, 2018
The local government and the Reconstruction Agency are not happy with portrayals of unspecified high-radiation locations and speculation over contaminated food.
Japan’s Reconstruction Agency and Fukushima Prefectural Government are considering legal action over the episode of Netflix’s Dark Tourist, which visited places still dealing with the aftermath of the March 2011 triple nuclear meltdown.
The episode, the second in the series released on the streaming giant July 20, sees New Zealand journalist David Farrier visit Japan, with just more than half of the program following him on an organized bus tour through areas near the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant.
Farrier and the other tourists become concerned as the readings on their Geiger counters showed radiation higher than they were told to expect and what is deemed to be safe levels. The group eventually decides to cut the tour short, but not before eating at a restaurant in the area and Farrier leaving the group to enter an off-limit gaming arcade. While at the restaurant, Farrier talks about his concerns about the food being unsafe, before finishing his meal.
“We’re examining the video content,” a senior official from the prefecture told news agency Jiji.
The parts of the video that the authorities have taken objection to are the section showing the high radiation levels, but not saying where they were filmed, the speculation about food contamination and Farrier’s excursion into the off-limits area.
Almost 100,000 foreign tourists are estimated to have visited Fukushima last year on what have been dubbed nuclear tourism tours.
Nearly 20,000 people died in March 2011, when a huge earthquake set off a devastating tsunami that knocked the cooling systems of the nuclear plant out of action, leading to three reactors at Daiichi melting down.
The local and national government have been working to have bans on food produces from the area rescinded, which they have been gradually achieving.
During the episode, Farrier also visits the Aokigahara forest, an area known for suicides. YouTuber Paul Logan faced a backlash at the beginning of the year after posting a video from the forest, where he had discovered a corpse. Farrier also stays in a robot-run hotel and takes a tour to the abandoned Hashima Island. Once a coal mine, the industrial wasteland of the island has attracted tourists and attention in recent years, appearing in the James Bond film Skyfall and the Japanese Attack on Titan live-action movies.
Other episodes feature tourism related to voodoo, drug barons, mass murderers and survivalists.

September 6, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Japan accused by UN special rapporteur of eroding media freedoms and stifling public debate of issues such as the Fukushima nuclear meltdown

2738The government of Shinzo Abe has been vocal about ‘unfair reporting’.

 

Japan accused of eroding press freedom by UN special rapporteur

Investigation prompted by concern over government pressure on country’s media over issues such as Fukushima and WW2

The UN’s special rapporteur on freedom of expression has accused Japan of eroding media freedoms and stifling public debate of issues such as the Fukushima nuclear meltdown and the country’s actions during the second world war.

In a report submitted to the UN human rights council, David Kaye said he had identified “significant worrying signals” about Japan’s record on freedom of expression.

His investigation – the first into freedom of the press in Japan – was prompted by concern over mounting government pressure on the country’s media.

Critics have cited the domestic media’s delay in reporting that the March 2011 accident at Fukushima had caused a nuclear meltdown – a decision believed to reflect official attempts to play down the severity of the disaster.

In 2014, the Asahi Shimbun, under pressure from the administration of the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, retracted an article claiming 650 workers had fled the Fukushima Daiichi plant soon after the disaster, defying an order by its then manager, Masao Yoshida, to stay and make a last-ditch effort to regain control of the reactors.

The paper later admitted its account, based on the newspaper’s interpretation of leaked testimony by Yoshida, was mistaken. Significantly, however, the report’s retraction led to the breakup of an Asahi investigative team that had produced several scoops critical of the government’s handling of the crisis.

While Kaye did not refer to specific reports on the Fukushima meltdown, he did voice concern over the removal from school textbooks of references to Japan’s wartime use of sex slaves.

Kaye noted the gradual disappearance of references to “comfort women” – tens of thousands of women, mostly from the Korean peninsula, who were forced to work in Japanese military brothels before and during the war.

In 1997, all seven history textbooks approved for use in junior high schools addressed wartime sexual slavery, yet none referred to the issue between 2012-15, and only one mentioned it last year.

Kaye said the lack of public debate over Japan’s wartime role, restrictions on access to information, and government pressure that has led the media to practise self-censorship “require attention lest they undermine Japan’s democratic foundations”.

Japan responded angrily to claims that media freedoms were at risk under Abe.

Its ambassador to the UN, Junichi Ihara, accused Kaye of peddling “inaccuracies” about the government’s commitment to a free press. In a statement to the UN human rights council on Monday, he said: “It is regrettable that some parts of [Kaye’s] report are written without accurate understanding of the government’s explanation and its positions.”

Ihara rebutted Kaye’s claim that a law permitting the government to suspend broadcast licences for TV and radio networks for “unfair reporting” was being used to pressure senior editors into underplaying or ignoring sensitive political stories.

Last year, the internal affairs minister, Sanae Takaichi, prompted an outcry after saying that broadcasters that repeatedly failed to show fairness in their political coverage, despite official warnings, could be taken off the air.

Soon after, three veteran news anchors – all with a reputation for grilling government politicians – left their jobs almost simultaneously, sparking allegations that they had been pressured to quit after Abe and his colleagues complained about them during private dinners with media executives.

Ihara noted that no minister had ever suspended a broadcasting licence, adding that the law “does not give rise to any pressure on the media”.

Kaye’s report was similarly critical of the 2014 state secrets law, under which journalists can be imprisoned for up to five years for reporting classified information passed on by whistleblowers. He said the law was “overly broad” and risked being applied arbitrarily, adding that the government “should not be in the position of determining what is fair”.

Ihara countered: “Information designed as specially designated secrets is limited under strict conditions,” adding that “information-gathering activities performed by journalists are not punishable under the act”.

The rift between Japan and the UN widened after Joseph Cannataci, special rapporteur on the right to privacy, said an anti-conspiracy bill being debated in parliament could “lead to undue restrictions to the rights to privacy and to freedom of expression”.

The government insists the new law is necessary for Japan to fulfil its international obligation to deter acts of terrorism. Abe denounced Cannataci’s assessment as “extremely unbalanced” and said his conduct was “hardly that of an objective expert”.

Confrontations between Japanese and UN representatives have grown more heated in recent years. In 2015, Tokyo suspended payments to Unesco after it included disputed Chinese documents about the Nanjing massacre in its World Memory List.

Yoshihiko Noda, the secretary general of Japan’s biggest opposition party, accused Abe’s government of “slamming the door” in the faces of UN special rapporteurs, according to the Mainichi Shimbun.

Earlier this year, Reporters Without Borders ranked Japan 72nd in its global press freedom index – the lowest among the G7. The country has slid down the rankings since 2010, when it was placed 11th.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/13/japan-accused-of-eroding-press-freedom-by-un-special-rapporteur

June 13, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

UN Rapporteur Received Reports that Japan Media Avoids Covering Ongoing Fukushima Nuclear Disaster; Reporter Demoted-Salary Reduced for Writing About Fukushima

image27.jpgUSAF bombing of hiroshima-nagasaki fall 1945, color enhanced.

I have also received first-hand reports of newspapers delaying or cancelling the publication of articles, or demoting or transferring reporters after writing articles critical of the government. Several journalists told me that media outlets avoid covering topics that may lead to criticism by the government, such as the Fukushima disaster and historical issues such as “comfort women”. A reporter was demoted and salary reduced after writing an article regarding the Fukushima plant manager’s testimony.” Excerpted from: “Preliminary observations by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Mr. David Kaye at the end of his visit to Japan (12-19 April 2016)” Emphasis our own. See more at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=19842&LangID=E

Clamp-down on media by (authoritarian) regimes can actually backfire because people cannot know what is going on, which could lead to even more panic than the facts, which are already very dire for Fukushima. Whether or not the reactors literally fall into the ocean, as recently reported by some, long-lived radioactive materials apparently continue to be discharged into the air, groundwater and ocean. Even fairly short-lived tritium, half-life 12 years, will make the ocean water literally radioactive (tritiated water) for around 200 years. (An explanation of the dangerous lie about potassium is found at the bottom of our blog post.)

Groundwater runs down from the highland and seeps into the damaged reactor buildings, where it becomes tainted with radioactive material before flowing out into the ocean.” (AsiaNikkei .com: https://nuclear-news.net/2016/09/29/fukushima-ice-wall-failing-to-deliver-on-promise )

Fukushima geology: http://www-naweb.iaea.org/napc/ih/documents/FDNPP%20presentations/05Marui.pdf

News Release: “Japan: UN rights expert warns of serious threats to the independence of the press TOKYO / GENEVA (19 April 2016) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, on Tuesday called upon the Japanese Government to take urgent steps to protect the independence of the media and promote the public’s right of access to information.

“Japan has well-earned pride in a Constitution that expressly protects the freedom of the press. Yet the independence of the press is facing serious threats,” said Kaye after a week-long visit to the country.

“Weak legal protection, the newly adopted Specially Designated Secrets Act, and persistent Government pressure for ‘neutrality’ and ‘fairness’ appear to be producing high levels of self-censorship,” Kaye said. “Such pressure has its intended effect because the media itself depends upon the exclusivity of the press club system and lacks a broad professional union that could advocate for basic principles of independence.”

“Numerous journalists, many agreeing to meet with me only on condition of anonymity to protect their livelihoods, highlighted the pressure to avoid sensitive areas of public interest. Many claimed to have been sidelined or silenced following indirect pressure from leading politicians. A country with such strong democratic foundations should resist and protect against such interference.”

According to Mr. Kaye, the Broadcast Act, adopted in 1950 to give the Government direct authority to regulate the broadcast media, confuses the professional obligations of journalists, in Article 4, with the Government’s power to suspend broadcasting licenses. “The Government should repeal Article 4 and get itself out of the media-regulation business,” he said.

Mr. Kaye noted that, in this environment, the Specially Designated Secrets Act, still in its early stages of implementation, is likely to have a chilling effect on the media’s coverage of matters of serious public concern. The weakness of whistleblower protection, for example, could lead to information sources drying up, while journalists themselves may fear punishment for their work to gain access to information. Such fears may have particular impact on areas of major contemporary public interest in Japan, such as the future of the nuclear power industry, disaster response, and the national security policies adopted by the Government.

According to the Special Rapporteur, Government pressure also undermines debate on issues of crucial importance, such as the use of “comfort women” during the Second World War. While noting that international human rights mechanisms have repeatedly urged Japan to address the issue, Mr. Kaye voiced his frustration about the attempts to limit debate over the country’s past.

“References to ‘comfort women’ are being edited out of textbooks in junior high schools, where Japanese history is compulsory,” Kaye found. “Government interference with how textbooks treat the reality of the crimes committed during the Second World War undermines the public’s right to know and its ability to grapple with and understand its past.”

Mr. Kaye visited the Diet, where he met the Committee on Judicial Affairs and expressed his interest in ongoing discussions on hate speech and surveillance legislation. “Japan must adopt a broadly applicable anti-discrimination law,” he said. “The first answer to hate speech is to have a law that prohibits acts of discrimination. Once that is in place, broad Government action against hateful expression — such as educational and public statements against hatred — can have a real impact on the fight against discrimination.”

“I want to emphasize as well how important a model Japan presents in the area of freedom on the Internet,” Kaye added. “The very low level of Government interference with digital freedoms illustrates the Government’s commitment to freedom of expression. As the Government considers legislation related to wiretaps and new approaches to cybersecurity, I hope that this spirit of freedom, communication security and innovation online is kept at the forefront of regulatory efforts.”

David Kaye visited Japan at the invitation of the Government and met with various national authorities. He also held discussions with non-governmental organizations, journalists, private media associations and lawyers. The Special Rapporteur will prepare a report to be presented in 2017 at the Human Rights Council on the main findings of his visit.
(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s full end-of-mission statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=19842&LangID=E
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David Kaye (USA) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in August 2014 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomOpinion/Pages/OpinionIndex.aspx
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.
Check the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: 
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CCPR.aspx

Original News Release here: http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=19843&LangID=E ( Emphasis our own).

Oak Ridge (National Nuclear Lab) Associated universities (ORAU) make clear the deception by Ken Buessler, Jay Cullen, and others, regarding potassium. Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) state: The human body maintains relatively tight homeostatic control over potassium levels. This means that the consumption of foods containing large amounts of potassium will not increase the body’s potassium content. As such, eating foods like bananas does not increase your annual radiation dose. If someone ingested potassium that had been enriched in K-40, that would be another story.
http://www.orau.org/ptp/collection/consumer%20products/potassiumgeneralinfo.htm
General Information About K-40, Paul Frame, Oak Ridge Associated Universities” Radioactive K40 makes up only 0.012% (120 ppm) of the total amount of potassium found in nature. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potassium-40 On the other hand, radioactive cesium can be taken up in potassium’s stead. Cesium acts as both a chemical and radiological poison. The banana and potato industry need to take Buesseler, Cullen, et. al. to court for trying to scare people away from life-giving bananas and potatoes. Bananas and organic (bio) potatoes are protective. They must have lost a lot of money from this con-game of trying to scare people away from bananas, in an apparent attempt to make man-made radioactive pollution of the earth look ok.

The Irish government seconds Oak Ridge Universities: “Potassium-40, a naturally occurring radionuclide, is present in relatively large activity concentrations in the marine environment. However it is controlled by homeostatic processes in the human body [Eisenbud and Gessell, 1997] and its equilibrium activity concentration in the body is normally independent of the amount consumed. Therefore, while the activity concentrations of this radionuclide in seafood are considerably higher than many other natural radionuclides, its presence does not result in an increased radiological hazardhttps://www.rpii.ie/RPII/files/7d/7dd84765-857b-4c45-9fab-8542a428a3e4.pdf

Beware Fukushima and other Japanese food, as the non-Japanese standards are much weaker than the Japanese ones, meaning that Japan will likely export its radioactive produce.

https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2017/05/28/un-rapporteur-received-reports-that-japan-media-avoids-covering-fukushima-reporter-demoted-salary-reduced-for-writing-about-fukushima/

 

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May 29, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | 1 Comment

Government inquiry into nuclear accident: some testimonies will remain secret

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The commission of inquiry set up by the government after the nuclear disaster at the Fukusima dai-ichi plant has recorded some 770 testimonies. 240 have been made public since, with the agreement of the interviewees, including that of the former director of the plant, Masao Yoshida, now deceased.

TEPCO shareholders filed a lawsuit for the publication of the testimonies from 11 executives of TEPCO and 3 executives of NISA, which was the regulator at the time. They have just been dismissed.

Justice considered that if these documents were disclosed, it would be difficult to obtain the cooperation of the concerned persons in the future. The same applies to the secret portions of partially published testimonies.

January 7, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , | 1 Comment

Japan’s Government Pressure on Press Freedom of Expression

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U.N. Special Rapporteur David Kaye speaks at a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo on Tuesday.

U.N. rapporteur on freedom of expression slams Japan’s ‘press club’ system, government pressure

After a week of conducting interviews, a United Nations expert on freedom of expression concluded Tuesday that Japan’s media independence is being jeopardized by government pressure, however inconspicuous it may be.

David Kaye, U.N. special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, also said the organizational structure of the media industry in Japan has undermined journalists’ ability to counter such pressure.

“The theoretical possibility of government regulation and organization … combined cause media freedom to suffer; media independence to suffer,” Kaye told a news conference Tuesday at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo.

It was his first official news conference since his original visit in December was postponed at the request of the Foreign Ministry because it was “unable to arrange meetings” with officials at that time.

Kaye pointed out there is “serious concern” about the ability of journalists to independently report on sensitive issues such as nuclear power due to the pressure exerted when the government flexes its regulatory muscles.

In February, communications minister Sanae Takaichi ominously noted that under the Broadcast Act the government can legally suspend the licenses of TV stations and networks if their programming is found to contain political bias.

Although government officials insist the remark was simply a factual statement about the law, the existence of the policy itself may reasonably be perceived as a threat to media freedom in Japan, Kaye said.

“I think this is a significant problem that the Broadcast Act allows for regulation by the government of the media,” he said, adding the law should be amended to prevent the state from being in a position to adjudicate what constitutes “bias.”

Meanwhile, Kaye also pointed out that the kisha club system in Japan — media associations formed around certain groups and government organizations through which reporters are granted access — should be abolished to regain media independence.

“Journalists in those kisha clubs tend to be focused very much together in this same kind of social network. And I think that allows for mechanisms of pressure. It may be soft pressure. It may be a kind of peer pressure that’s very difficult to resist,” he said.

“It’s common for journalists (in general) to describe their role as a watchdog … to not just take government information as a kind of scribe and copy it and put it online or put it in a newspaper or repeat it on a broadcast network. But (the role is) to question it; it’s to question government policies. It’s to question government conclusions,” Kaye said.

“It is normal for government to push back against journalists’ reporting. … But it’s the role of the media to push back on the government as well,” he said.

Over a weeklong trip that began April 12, Kaye met with various national authorities, nongovernmental organizations, journalists and media to exchange opinions and to examine the situation of freedom of expression in Japan.

Before officially inviting Kaye this time, the government postponed his originally scheduled visit in December, a move that ended up drawing heavy criticism. Freedom advocates said the government was trying to prevent Kaye from highlighting serious issues over press freedom in Japan in the international spotlight.

Asked about the rescheduling, Kaye said he can only refer to what he was told by the government, which said many officials were unavailable due to the budget compilation process.

Meanwhile, Kaye praised Japan’s Internet freedom and widespread broadband accessibility, saying the country needs to work to remain a role model for other nations that practice censorship of online discourse.

The full report on Kaye’s investigation will be published in 2017 to be submitted to the U.N.’s Human Rights Council.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/04/19/national/u-n-rapporteur-freedom-expression-slams-japans-press-club-system-government-pressure/#.VxbkGtR97Gh

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives at the White House during a visit last month.

How Japan came to rank worse than Tanzania on press freedom

The state of press freedom in Japan is now worse than that in Tanzania, according to a new ranking from the non-profit group Reporters Without Borders.

Japan came in 72nd of the 180 countries ranked in the group’s 2016 press freedom index, falling 11 places since last year.

Europe’s media was deemed to have the most freedom this year, but the situation has worsened significantly in most of the Asia-Pacific region.

For Japan’s journalists, things have taken a turn for the worse relatively recently. Just six years ago, the country ranked 11th in the world.

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Japan’s poor performance on press freedom is particularly surprising given its standing as one of the world’s leading developed countries. The island nation of 125 million people has the world’s third-largest economy and a vibrant democracy whose postwar constitution guarantees freedoms of speech, press and assembly.

“With Japan hosting the G7 meeting next month of leading democracies, the press crackdown is an international black eye for Japan and makes it an outlier in the group,” said Jeff Kingston, a professor of history and director of Asian studies at Temple University and author of the book “Contemporary Japan: History, Politics, and Social Change since the 1980s.”

The 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant set the stage for the erosion of press freedoms, Kingston said. “Japan’s slide in the rankings began with the incomplete coverage of the Fukushima meltdowns and the government’s efforts to downplay the accident; Tokyo Electric Power Company (and Japan) denied the triple meltdown for two months,” he said. “Sadly, the Japanese media went along with this charade because here it is all about access. Those media outlets that don’t toe the line find themselves marginalized by the powers that be. Since [Fukushima], Japan’s culture wars over history, constitutional revision and security doctrine have been fought on the media battlefield.”

When Prime Minister Shinzo Abe returned for a second term in 2012, five years after he resigned abruptly amid growing unpopularity in 2007, his administration began cracking down on perceived bias in the nation’s media.

At first, the media didn’t hold back in criticizing his administration. The press lambasted Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso for saying that Japan should learn from the way the Nazi party stealthily changed Germany’s constitution before World War II. But critics say Aso’s suggestion foreshadowed things to come.

Two years ago, the Abe administration pushed through a state secrets bill ostensibly designed to prevent classified information from leaking to China or Russia. But the measure allows for journalists and bloggers to be jailed for up to five years for asking about something that is a state secret, even if they aren’t aware it is one. Thousands protested the law when it was passed on Dec. 6, 2013.

Abe’s friend, conservative businessman Katsuto Momii, became the head of Japan’s major public broadcasting company, NHK, in 2014, in a move that has compromised the independence of its reports. Momii has stated publicly that NHK “should not deviate from the government’s position in its reporting.”

Abe’s Liberal Democratic party also recently proposed a constitutional amendment that would allow the government to curtail speech that “harms the public interest and public order.”

In June 2015, members of the party urged the government to punish media outlets critical of the government and pressure companies not to advertise with them.

This year, Abe’s Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi threatened to shut down news broadcasters over “politically biased reports” — something TV and radio laws in Japan empower her to do.

A week later, three television presenters who had been critical of the Abe administration were all removed from their positions.

Veteran reporters in Japan have criticized Abe’s government for applying pressure to reporters, but also decry the increasing self-censorship going on in the country’s press. “To me, the most serious problem is self-restraint by higher-ups at broadcast stations,” Soichiro Tahara, one of the country’s most revered journalists, told reporters last month.

“The Abe administration’s threats to media independence, the turnover in media personnel in recent months and the increase in self-censorship within leading media outlets are endangering the underpinnings of democracy in Japan,” Reporters Without Borders concluded in its report released this month about declining media freedoms in Japan.

“Independence of the press is facing serious threats,” David Kaye, U.N. special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, said during a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan on Tuesday. “Many journalists who came to me and my team asked for anonymity in our discussions. Many claimed to have been sidelined or silenced following indirect pressure from politicians.”

The state originally invited Kaye to visit last December, but the trip was canceled abruptly after Japanese authorities claimed to be unable to set up meetings in time.

Kaye called for Japan’s Broadcast Law to be revised to ensure press freedom, and criticized Japan’s press club structure as detrimental to an independent press. In Japan, reporters are granted access through press clubs, or “kisha clubs,” formed around groups and government organizations. They serve as gatekeepers, and typically don’t grant access to weekly magazines, like Shukan Bunshun, which excel at investigative journalism.

“Journalists in those kisha clubs tend to be focused very much together in this same kind of social network. And I think that allows for mechanisms of pressure. It may be a kind of peer pressure that’s very difficult to resist,” Kaye said.

http://www.latimes.com/world/asia/la-fg-japan-press-freedom-20160420-story.html

April 21, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Self-censorship sensed as Japan’s TV stations replace outspoken anchors

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The faces of Japan’s TV news are changing.

Broadcasters are under increasing political pressure from the government and a succession of outspoken anchors and newscasters have resigned.

Experts worry the situation marks a crisis in TV journalism, for it is believed broadcasters are now exercising self-censorship as they seek to toe the administration’s line.

Hosts Ichiro Furutachi of TV Asahi’s influential “Hodo Station” and Shigetada Kishii of the TBS evening news program “News 23″ will both be replaced in April. NHK, too, is considering pulling longtime anchorwoman Hiroko Kuniya from its “Close-up Gendai” news and features program.

Furutachi has often been criticized by the government and its supporters for his commentaries.

He is unrepentant. During a news conference announcing his departure, Furutachi reiterated his motto: “Newscasters at times represent the voices against the powers that be.”

Kuniya’s departure has long been whispered about as she is known for asking big-name politicians tough questions. However, she has survived until now.

Similarly, Kishii expressed opposition to contentious security bills before they cleared the Diet last September and called on fellow opponents to speak up.

“Voices should continuously be raised (for the bills) to be scrapped,” he declared.

Criticism was heaped upon him, particularly from the right. One conservative political group said his statement violated the Broadcast Law, which states broadcasters must be politically impartial.

On Tuesday, TBS named Hiroshi Hoshi, 60, a senior writer with the left-leaning Asahi Shimbun daily newspaper, as Kishii’s replacement.

Some analysts see cause for alarm in the slew of anchor replacements.

“There must be different reasons behind each station’s move, but if three journalists quit in succession, the audience would get the impression that it was the results of their criticism of the administration,” said Hiroyoshi Sunakawa, a professor of media studies at Rikkyo University.

It was around the Lower House election of 2014 that the ruling Liberal Democratic Party began to exert stronger demands on TV stations.

In one example, the government issued a document to Tokyo-based stations demanding that they “ensure fairness, neutrality and correctness” in their election coverage. In 2015, the LDP summoned TV executives for questioning over the content of the “Hodo Station” and “Close-up Gendai” programs.

Having experienced that pressure, the stations now are believed to refrain from running content that criticizes the administration.

“I don’t want to take risks,” said one young employee at a commercial TV station.

A source close to NHK sighed and said there is a growing atmosphere among NHK staff that they should be second-guessing the administration’s expectations.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/01/26/national/media-national/self-censorship-sensed-japans-tv-stations-replace-outspoken-anchors/#.VtXCqA1Ukf1.facebook

March 29, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Criticism of Government Being Airbrushed Out News Shows Anchors Away

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FOR a decade, millions of Japanese have tuned in to watch Ichiro Furutachi, the salty presenter of a popular evening news show, TV Asahi’s “Hodo Station”. But next month Mr Furutachi will be gone. He is one of three heavyweight presenters leaving prime-time shows on relatively liberal channels. It is no coincidence that all are, by Japanese standards, robust critics of the government.
Last year another anchor, Shigetada Kishii, used his news slot on TBS, a rival channel, to question the legality of bills passed to expand the nation’s military role overseas. The questioning was nothing less than what most constitutional scholars were also doing—and in private senior officials themselves acknowledge the unconstitutionality of the legislation, even as they justify it on the ground that Japan is in a risky neighbourhood and needs better security. But Mr Kishii’s on-air fulminations prompted a group of conservatives to take out newspaper advertisements accusing him of violating broadcasters’ mandated impartiality. TBS now says he will quit. The company denies this has anything to do with the adverts, but few believe that.
The third case is at NHK, the country’s giant public-service broadcaster. It has yanked one of its more popular anchors off the air. Hiroko Kuniya has helmed an investigative programme, “Close-up Gendai”, for two decades. NHK has not said why she is leaving, but colleagues blame her departure on an interview last year with Yoshihide Suga, the government’s top spokesman and closest adviser to Shinzo Abe, the prime minister.
Mr Suga is known for running a tight ship and for demanding advance notice of questions from journalists. In the interview Ms Kuniya had the temerity to probe him on the possibility that the new security legislation might embroil Japan in other countries’ wars. By the standards of spittle-flecked clashes with politicians on British or American television, the encounter was tame. But Japanese television journalists rarely play hardball with politicians. Mr Suga’s handlers were incensed.
It all shows how little tolerance the government has for criticism, says Makoto Sataka, a commentator and colleague of Mr Kishii’s. He points out that one of Mr Abe’s first moves after he returned to power in 2012 was to appoint conservative allies to NHK’s board. Katsuto Momii, the broadcaster’s new president, wasted little time in asserting that NHK’s role was to reflect government policy. What is unprecedented today, says Shigeaki Koga, a former bureaucrat turned talking head, is the growing public intimidation of journalists. On February 9th the communications minister, Sanae Takaichi, threatened to close television stations that flouted rules on political impartiality. Ms Takaichi was responding to a question about the departure of the three anchors.
Political pressure on the press is not new. The mainstream media (the five main newspapers are affiliated with the principal private television stations) are rarely analytical or adversarial, being temperamentally and commercially inclined to reflect the establishment view. Indeed the chumminess is extreme. In January Mr Abe again dined with the country’s top media executives at the offices of the Yomiuri Shimbun, the world’s biggest-circulation newspaper. Nine years ago, when Mr Abe resigned from his first term as prime minister, the paper’s kingpin, Tsuneo Watanabe, brokered the appointment of his successor, Yasuo Fukuda. Mr Watanabe then attempted to forge a coalition between ruling party and opposition. Oh, but his paper forgot to alert readers to all these goings-on. The media today, says Michael Cucek of Temple University in Tokyo, has “no concept of conflict of interest.”
It has all contributed to an alarming slide since 2011 in Japan’s standing in world rankings of media freedom. Mr Koga expects a further fall this year. He ran afoul of the government during his stint as a caustic anti-Abe commentator on “Hodo Station”. On air last year he claimed that his contract was being terminated because of pressure from the prime minister’s office. His aim, Mr Koga insists, was to rally the media against government interference. Yet TV Asahi apologised and promised tighter controls over guests. Now Mr Furutachi is quitting too. The government is playing chicken with the media, Mr Furutachi says, and winning.
http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21693269-criticism-government-being-airbrushed-out-news-shows-anchors-away

February 19, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment