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HOME  > Past issues  > 2016 April 20 - 26  > UN human rights expert shows concern over independence of the press in Japan
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2016 April 20 - 26 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

UN human rights expert shows concern over independence of the press in Japan

April 21, 2016
A UN official, who is visiting Japan to survey the situation of freedom of expression, stated on April 19 at a news conference in Tokyo that the Japanese government is threatening the independence of the press.

David Kaye, a UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, referred to Communications Minister Takaichi Sanae’s recent remarks hinting at ordering the suspension of broadcasting.

Kaye expressed concern over a provision of Japan’s Broadcast Act which gives the government the authority to suspend broadcasting when it regards a media report as “politically biased”. He stressed the need to revise the law, noting that those in power should not make a judgment on whether a press report is partial or impartial.

In regard to Japan’s Secret Information Protection Act, the UN official pointed to the possibility that matters of public concern such as national security and a national policy of nuclear power generation may be kept from public discussions as “special secrets”. He argued that the law should be revised as well.

He also mentioned the issue of historical perception such as the Imperial Japanese Army’s sex slave system during World War II. Pointing out that Japanese public school textbooks fail to describe the “comfort women” issue appropriately, he stated that he felt a kind of “political pressure” being put on schoolbook publishers.

Kaye is scheduled to compile a report based on his investigation in Japan and submit it to the UN Human Rights Council next year.


An international organization, Reporters Without Borders, on April 20 published the results of its annual survey on the degree of freedom of the press in nations around the world. According to that, Japan dropped from 61st place in 2015 to 72nd place in 2016.

The organization pointed out that many news organs in Japan, including the public broadcaster, are imposing self-restraint on their reports, following the Prime Minister’s intent.

Past related article:
> Minister hints at possibility of ordering broadcasters to go off the air [February 10, 2016]
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