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HOME  > Past issues  > 2020 September 30 - October 6  > PM Suga’s media control infringes on people’s right to know
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2020 September 30 - October 6 TOP3 [POLITICS]

PM Suga’s media control infringes on people’s right to know

October 5, 2020

Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide since his first press conference has shown reluctance to meet the press while holding off-the-record meetings with beat reporters and appointing a former senior editor of a news agency to be a special advisor to the PM. As shown by these facts, PM Suga has begun exercising his control over the media. This reveals his real nature disregarding the people’s right to know, a fundamental element of democratic society.

Former bureaucrat of the Economy and Industry Ministry Koga Shigeaki pointed out, “Suga, as the successor to PM Abe, continues with the practice of the autocratic management of bureaucrats, government control of the media, and the framework of enabling Japan to wage war. Suga played a key role in creating these legacies as the Chief Cabinet Secretary of the Abe government.” The ex-senior government official added that in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party presidential election in September, Suga fully utilized one of the Abe government legacies, the state control of the media.

In this regard, Koga referred to media reactions to PM Abe’s announcement of his intent to resign. While speaking highly of PM Abe’s policies during his tenure in office, the mass media, especially TV, turned a blind eye to PM Abe’s abuse of power to further his own interests. Abe’s abuse of power was evident in the favoritism scandals related to the “Moritomo” and “Kake” school corporations and to the government-hosted cherry blossom-viewing parties. In addition, Abe arbitrarily used his power to create war laws which undermine constitutionalism; increase the consumption tax twice; and bulldoze through the U.S. base construction in Henoko in defiance of Okinawan opposition.

Koga pointed out, “The media made such a reaction because they took a hint from Suga, the most likely candidate for the next LDP leader.” He said, “The criticism of the Abe government at that time was tantamount to rebelling against Abe’s potential successor, Suga. For political reporters, a change of power is a great event. In this context, if they succeed in gathering much information from Japan’s next prime minister, they will be able to have a powerful voice within their companies.”

Tokyo Shimbun reporter Mochizuki Isoko recalled her experience of confronting Suga when he served as the Abe government spokesperson, and said, “Suga used tactics in which he selected favorable lineups among political reporters and used them to apply pressure on media reportage.”

Another reporter said, “PM Suga dines with a wide range of media-related people three times a day, from media executives to chief editors, reporters, major TV network officials, and major TV commentators. Suga meets with the media more frequently than his predecessor with the aim of establishing a close relationship with the mass media under which Suga seeks to prevent the media from criticizing his policies. Furthermore, he intends to use this relationship to exert authoritarian control of information when necessary. He uses his connections to apply the iron-fist rule over the media.”
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