DESPITE the government’s assurances on the safeguarding of media freedom, an expert from the United Nations (U.N.) believes the independence of Japan’s press is facing serious threats.
U.N. Special Rapporteur David Kaye’s warning of these threats came as a result of a week-long visit which included interviews with journalists and government officials.
Speaking to reporters in Tokyo today, Kaye announced that he found “several worrying trends” on the matter.
Kaye said that among his concerns is a law meant to ensure media-coverage fairness that allows the government to revoke broadcasting licenses over perceived violations.
He also said the so-called “secrets act” law, meant to protect national security and public safety, is so broad that it could obstruct people’s right to know.
He urged Japanese journalists to work together to develop leverage to overcome these challenges.
The Japanese government under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has repeatedly said freedom of the press is protected in the country, in line with its constitution which guaranteed freedom of speech.
However, Japan was not ranked among the highest of countries for press freedom, standing at 25th position according to Freedom House’s scores for 2015.
On the legal environment alone, Freedom House pointed out the restrictive Protection of Specially Designated Secrets Act, which went into effect in Dec. 2014 despite opposition from international and local press freedom advocates as well as the Japanese public.
Passed in 2013, the law can punish whistleblowers who leak vaguely defined “state secrets” for up to 10 years in prison, while journalists who publish leaked information can face up to five years in jail.
The non-governmental organisation also pointed out that the law grants ministers the power to designate certain information as state secrets for up to 60 years.
Additional reporting by Associated Press