Freedom of speech and media endangered -- Akahata editorial, May 6 (excerpts)

Two bills, ostensibly to protect human rights and personal information but that actually endanger freedom of speech and expression through media control, are under discussion by the House of Representatives and the House of Councilors.

Newspapers, broadcasting stations, publishing houses, and trade unions in the media, journalists, writers, and four opposition parties all oppose the bills due to the possible danger of infringing on the freedom of speech.

Government to meddle in news reports

The two bills have a common danger in that, using the protection of human rights and personal information as a pretext, they are designed to open the way toward allowing the government to meddle in the freedom of speech and expression, the mainstay of a democracy.

The human rights protection bill puts reports in the same category as discrimination and abuse to be controlled. The bill states that a human rights committee, an extension of the Justice Ministry, will have the power to judge whether news coverage was excessive and was violating privacy or not and to recommend reporting to be suspended. Through these procedures, the government will interfere in the freedom of the media and expression, and deprive the people of their right to know.

The personal information protection bill states that the basic requirements for information, such as the information being obtained by an appropriate method, and the person concerned being participated in appropriately, should be applied to the press and the general public. This will result in control over news collecting and reporting.

Behind the recent reports of many incidents of political corruption and graft was the strength of penetrating coverage and stories from insiders. Probing into political scandals will have to undergo heavy restrictions if reporters are required to disclose their news source at the demand of the suspicious politicians.

There is no guarantee for relief from the infringement of human rights by public power since the committee assigned to the task is part of the government's Justice Ministry. This arrangement contradicts the 1998 recommendation of the international human rights convention committee calling for an independent body from the Justice Ministry to be set up in Japan.

Another problem is that human rights violations in labor affairs will be placed under the control of the Health, Labor, and Welfare Minister. Japan, notorious for discrimination based on beliefs and discrimination against women needs a truly independent committee.

War and media control

The crucial issue is that parliament now has the war-nation state bill designed to build a nation giving top priority to going to war in parallel with these bills to control media and speech.

Compelling the general public to go to war is the extremity of violating human rights and freedom. Going to war and controlling media stem from the same idea of trying to trample on the constitutional principles of peace and democracy.

These bills to control speech should be withdrawn and undergo a thorough review. (end)