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UN body calls on Japan to improve protection of press freedoms

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GENEVA (Kyodo) — A U.N. body on Thursday called on Japan to take steps to better protect press freedoms as concerns about the country’s laws aimed at curtailing leaks of state secrets could hinder the work of journalists.
In another of the 218 non-legally binding recommendations on Japan’s human rights record released by the U.N. Human Rights Council’s working group, Tokyo was urged to apologize and pay compensation to “comfort women” forced to work in Japan’s World War II military brothels.
The recommendations reflected the views of some 105 countries. Of the issues raised, the U.N. council will adopt those that have been accepted by the country in question at a plenary session around March 2018.
In relation to freedom of the press in Japan, the recommendation called on the country to amend Article 4 of the broadcasting law that gives the government authority to suspend broadcasting licenses of TV stations not considered “politically fair.”
Japan had already attracted criticism, in particular from David Kaye, U.N. special rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, over its law called the Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets, which came into force in 2014.
Under the law, civil servants or others who leak designated secrets could face up to 10 years in prison, and those who instigate leaks, including journalists, could be subject to prison terms of up to five years.
In his report, Kaye noted that the law may be arbitrarily enforced as subcategories under which information may be designated as secret are “overly broad.”
On the issue of “comfort women,” raised at the request of South Korea and China, the recommendation urged Japan to promote fair and accurate historical education, including the women’s stories, and to apologize and compensate victims.
The recommendation also said Japan should abolish or suspend the death penalty, reflecting calls from European Union countries, and continue to provide support to those affected by the Fukushima nuclear crisis caused by the massive 2011 earthquake and tsunami. In particular, a directive to address health issues faced by pregnant mothers and children was noted.
The U.N. Rights Council is mandated to “undertake a universal periodic review” of whether countries are meeting their human rights obligations and commitments.
The examination is conducted on all 193 members of the United Nations in periodic cycles of a few years. The latest review was the third for Japan.
Nuclear-news.net exclusive report from yesterday on the UN meeting;
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November 18, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Japan Reverts to Fascism

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Tsunami in Japanese politics.
This week, Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partners won a two-thirds majority in the legislature’s upper house, to go along with their two-thirds majority in the lower house. A two-thirds majority is required in each house to begin the process of amending Japan’s constitution. And amending the constitution is one of the central planks in the LDP’s platform.
The constitution was imposed on Japan by the United States after the Second World War; it has never been amended. Why should it be amended now? As Bloomberg reports, the LDP has pointed out that “several of the current constitutional provisions are based on the Western European theory of natural human rights; such provisions therefore [need] to be changed.”
What has the LDP got against the “Western European theory of natural human rights”? you might ask. Well, dozens of LDP legislators and ministers — including Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe — are members of a radical nationalist organization called Nippon Kaigi, which believes (according to one of its members, Hakubun Shimomura, who until recently was Japan’s education minister) that Japan should abandon a “masochistic view of history” wherein it accepts that it committed crimes during the Second World War.
In fact, in Nippon Kaigi’s view, Japan was the wronged party in the war.
According to the Congressional Research Service, Nippon Kaigi believes that “Japan should be applauded for liberating much of East Asia” during WW2, that the “Tokyo War Crimes tribunals were illegitimate,” and that the rape of Nanking was either “exaggerated or fabricated.” It denies the forced prostitution of Chinese and Korean “comfort women” by the Imperial Japanese Army, believes Japan should have an army again — something outlawed by Japan’s current constitution — and believes that it should return to worshipping the emperor.
When, in the wake of Nazi-level war crimes, the U.S. forced Japan to become a liberal democracy, it also forced Japan’s emperor to issue the following statement denying his divinity: “The ties between us and our people have always stood upon mutual trust and affection. They do not depend upon legend and myths. They are not predicated on the false conception that the Emperor is divine, and that the Japanese people are superior to other races and fated to rule the world.”
And members of Nippon Kaigi are still mad.
In 2013, at a Nippon Kaigi party celebrating Shinzo Abe’s new appointments to his cabinet — 15 of whose 18 members were Nippon Kaigi-niks — the old imperial “Rising Sun” flag was flown, pledges to “break away from the postwar regime” were made, and the (very short and controversial) imperial national anthem was sung. The lyrics are addressed to the emperor:
“May your reign Continue for a thousand, eight thousand generations, Until the pebbles grow into boulders Lush with moss.”
The LDP’s draft for an amended constitution would eliminate the prohibition on imbuing religious organizations with “political authority,” clearing the way for the return of state Shintoism and emperor worship.
The draft would also repeal the provision that the “Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes,” along with the provision that “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.” (Not that Japan has, hitherto, been too strict about this particular rule: According to the Credit Suisse Military Strength Index, Japan currently has the fourth-strongest military in the world, behind only the U.S., Russia, and China.)
The new constitution also repeals the right to free speech, adding a clause stating that the government can restrict speech and expression that it sees as “interfering [with] public interest and public order.”
(In fact, Japan’s current government has been working on the free-speech problem for a few years now: According to the Japan Times, in 2014, the internal affairs and communications minister warned that broadcasters could be shut down if they aired programming that the government deemed was “politically biased.” The director of Japan’s public broadcasting corporation — a friend of Prime Minister Abe — has said publicly that it was his policy that the NHK (Japan’s BBC) “should not deviate from the government’s position in its reporting.”
In just the last five years, Japan’s press freedom — as ranked by Reporters without Borders — has fallen from 11th globally to 72nd.
The new draft constitution adds a warning that “the people must be conscious of the fact that there are responsibilities and obligations in compensation for freedom and rights.” These “obligations” include the mandate to “uphold the [new] constitution” and “respect the national anthem” quoted above. Also that “the people must comply with the public interest and public order,” and “the people must obey commands from the state” in times of “emergency.”
But not everyone is bound by these obligations: The Emperor is exempt from the requirement to uphold the constitution. Likewise, the Emperor is required, under the new constitution, to seek “advice” from the cabinet — but not, as he is currently required, to seek “advice and approval.”
If the new constitution is approved by two-thirds of each house of the Japanese legislature, its adoption will be voted on in a national referendum requiring a simple majority. Who can say if 51 percent of Japanese voters would vote against their own civil rights? On the one hand, it seems absurd; on the other, they did give the LDP’s coalition a two-thirds majority in both legislative chambers.
Five years ago, President Obama called for a foreign-policy “pivot to Asia.” With China seizing and militarizing the South China Sea, and North Korea testing delivery systems for its new nuclear weapons, it would probably be a good idea — “pivot to Asia”–wise — not to stand idly by while our most important Asian ally, and the second-richest democracy in the world, reverts to fascism.

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/437950/japans-new-fascism

July 17, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , , | 1 Comment

Glory to Areva, benefactor of humanity!

Areva, you’d better venerate it or it’ll retaliate. When it comes to evoke the French nuclear corporation, you’d better choose your vocabulary in the praise glossary, if you do not want to be dragged into court.

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Areva has filed a libel suit against Jean-Jacques Mu, a former blogger on Club Mediapart, just for having relayed a critical article from the Anti-Nuclear Southeast Coordination.

Already in 1974, the anti-nuclear environmentalist newspaper La Gueule Ouverte, which did not mince words, warned its readers: “Corporations, fascism without borders. “

Heil Areva! Today’s freedom of reporting on the nuclear machinations and horrors is exerted only at the risk of citizens who believed to be in democracy.

 And since we need to know that no one is too small enough to dare challenge Areva, Areva is taking out a sledgehammer to crush a gadfly: Jean-Jacques Mu, retired, blogger, not belonging to any group or any party. Jean-Jacques Mu is now dragged into court by Areva for defamation. His offense ? To have relayed an article of CAN-84 (Anti-Nuclear Southeast Coordination) on his blog hosted by Mediapart.

On 27 July 2014, Areva spotted the article relayed by Jean-Jacques Mu on Mediapart. Areva’s lawyers found some terms that could be taken for libel into court: they contacted Mediapart which immediately removed the offending article. The matter could have stopped there. But a few days later (July 31, 2014) Areva finds that Jean-Jacques Mu released a new blog post, which though having removed the offending words, gave the link to the same article of the CAN-84 (Anti-Nuclear Southeast Coordination).

In August 2014 (the traditional summer month holiday in France), the lawyers of the Areva Corporation were not idle: they hired a bailiff who traced the IP code of the administrator of the CAN-84 (Anti-Nuclear Southeast Coordination) website as well as the one of the blogger Jean-jacques Mu.

CAN is a collective, there is no single author of the article: who cares, Areva filed a complaint against X and … against Jean-Jacques Mu, based on the Law on the Freedom of the Press of 29 July 1881, which states that if one can not condemn the author of the allegedly defamatory words, then the editor of the words, its media, its distributors, its peddlers, and therefore in the twenty-first century the bloggers-relayers will be the ones to be condemned.

Jean-Jacques Mu faces a condemnation for having posted on his blog an article from the Anti-Nuclear Southeast Coordination, which he considered important to inform the public of.

What was it about? It was about the municipal council of Avignon and the signing of a contract between the city and the Areva Foundation. Like all the corporations, benefactors of humanity, Areva has a foundation that funds, among other things some educational projects.

Better to stuff early into the heads of the “children of a parent–teacher association” the propaganda conditioning them to worship profit ogres who will exploit them their whole lives while destroying the planet: It is cheap and pays off. And as the Ministry of Education’s pockets are increasingly empty, money even radioactive has no odor.

The article of CAN84 roundly blamed some EELV elected officials (Green Ecology Party) to have not voted against the signing of this contract with the Areva Foundation: they did not vote at all, they just got out of the room at the appropriate time.

Areva was only a secondary point of the article relayed by Jean-Jacques MU, which was aiming at the municipal council of Avignon. Yet Areva attacks the CAN84 and the blogger Jean-Jacques Mu, for a handful of forms as it considers defamatory because they are critical.

To be mentioned as the “giant of nuclear death” is bad for the image of Areva, and never mind if from its dirty uranium mines to its power plants operations its nuclear is nothing clean nor favorable to the bright future that its advertisements are promising us.

Good people, never mention “the Areva crimes” nor the permanent ongoing risks that this flagship of French industry poses to entire populations. Forget Chernobyl, forget Fukushima, forget the thyroid cancers that strike massively contaminated populations of children during the nuclear disasters that destroyed their cities, do not use the words “contaminate and kill children”, they could be badly perceived by susceptible Areva which will not hesitate to stick you with a court case.

It is obvious that the relay, in extenso for only 24 hours of a CAN84 article on the blog of Jean-Jacques Mu, has not infringed the notoriously booming business of the nuclear corporation. Areva, which manages to get in economic jeopardy while stirring billions, is very intolerant of criticisms from ordinary citizens and shows a much greater exigency for words in an article relayed by a blog that for the safety of workers in its uranium mines in Niger.

Since it is the freedom of information and expression that Areva is threatening through this libel case to be held in a Paris court on August 30, 2016, it is our responsibility to support Jean-Jacques MU, by raising awareness about this case, by being present in court on the day of the trial, by participating in the kitty that will give him the means that he does not have to prepare his defense.

At a time when corporations want whistleblowers to be condemned and track down the ordinary people who dare to criticize them, we answer: no, we will not be silenced!

https://blogs.mediapart.fr/juliette-keating/blog/300616/gloire-areva-bienfaitrice-de-lhumanite

July 11, 2016 Posted by | France | , , , , | Leave a 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