No progress was made in 2007 on needed reform of the kisha clubs, which continue to obstruct the free flow of news. On the other hand, incidents of violent attacks on the media by nationalist groups decreased and a man who carried out an attack on a newspaper in 2006 was arrested.
Yasuo Fukuda replaced Shinzo Abe as the head of the ineradicable ruling Liberal Democratic Party. The press carried reports of the scandals in which Shinzo Abe’s term of office became mired. The government, the media and financial circles kept in place the system of kisha clubs, which prevent independent and foreign journalists from getting access to some categories of news. Officially, Japan has 800 of these kisha clubs but some sources put it as high as 1,500. Most of them are linked to public bodies such as ministries and provincial governments, large companies, political parties and the Imperial Household Agency.
An extreme-right militant, Motohide Hiraoka, aged 42, was arrested in April for throwing a petrol bomb at the head office of the economic daily Nikkei in Tokyo overnight on 20 July 2006. Nobody had been injured in the attack. Police said that the militant accused the newspaper of “manipulating public opinion” in an article about the Yasukuni sanctuary where Japanese war criminals are buried.
Japan’s colonial past also prompted controversy. A court in Tokyo in January sentenced public broadcaster NHK to pay a fine for having censored parts of a documentary about the Imperial Army’s “sex slaves” under pressure from the government.