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Japan


Area: 377,800 sq. km.
Population: 128,085,000.
Language: Japanese.
Head of government: Shinzo Abe.

Japan - Annual report 2007

The rise of nationalism had a negative impact on press freedom and there has been a rise in the number of assaults and threats. The government has not undertaken any reform of the system of kisha clubs which obstruct the free circulation of information.

In July 2006, a bottle of petrol was thrown at the offices of the financial newspaper Nihon Keizai Shimbun which had just broken news embarrassing to nationalist groups. Several other Japanese journalists and writers were threatened in 2006. There were also attacks on foreign TV crews in Tokyo. Those responsible, most likely the extreme right Uyoko groupuscules, are rarely punished. Police wound up an investigation into the murder of a journalist and several attacks against media in the 1980s and 1990s.

Before he left office, former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi accused the media of being opposed to his regular visits to the Yasukuni memorial, where war criminals are honoured. “Whatever I do, they attack me,” he said.

The deep-rooted ruling Liberal Democratic Party and financial circles maintain the system of kisha clubs which ban independent and foreign journalists from getting some news. Despite criticism from foreign correspondents, the European Union and press freedom organisations, the government shows no interest in reforming this archaic system. In 2006, a representative of the EU in Japan called the system a serious violation of the free circulation of information. There are officially 800 kisha clubs in Japan (Up to 1,500, according to some sources). The majority of them operate within public institutions such as ministries, provincial governments, large companies, political parties and the Imperial Agency.

But the justice system also knows how to protect press freedom. In October, the Supreme Court recognised the right of a journalist from NHK television to protect his source. He had been the object of legal action by a North American company since 1997 for uncovering tax problems within its Japanese subsidiary. In June, a reporter for Yomiuri Shimbun obtained a similar judgement from an appeal court in Tokyo.



 
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