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Japan Slides Further Down in World Press Freedom Index

Japan has fallen even further on Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index 2014, coming in at 59th of 180. The annual report pointed to the state secrecy law that the Japanese government adopted last year in December:

The “special intelligence protection bill” that the National Diet in Japan (59th, – 5) adopted in late 2013 would reduce government transparency on such key national issues as nuclear power and relations with the United States, now enshrined as taboos. Investigative journalism, public interest and the confidentiality of journalists’ sources are all being sacrificed by legislators bent on ensuring that their country’s image is spared embarrassing revelations.

The index also highlighted discrimination against foreign and freelance reporters when it comes to access to press conferences and information. 

In general, Japanese do not consider freedom of the press as a right because most people stick to receiving information passively from mainstream media. However, with the country continuing its slide in World Press Freedom Index rankings (Japan fell from 22nd to 53rd place in the 2013 index) and the at times whitewashed coverage of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, people are now starting to be critical about the condition of press freedom in the Japan.

Independent journalist Ryusaku Tanaka responded to the news on Twitter:

Japan is ranked 59th in World Press Freedom rankings? It's not that press is violently silenced by the state as it is in China or Russia. The Japanese mainstream media has a lot of power. It has the freedom to clamor, as much as it likes, for its own special privileges. Couldn't it be said, rather, that the degree of freedom possessed by the mass media is the best in the world?

Another user on Twitter, Daisuke Murakami, commented in disappointment:

The decay present in mainstream media is not something that has just begun recently, but it's now approaching a level that could be called “sick”. We'd better know what kind of coverage and reporting we ordinary people are seeing everyday. To put it bluntly, media is even less believable than a politician. 

User “soret” pointed out [ja] on social bookmark site hatena that the kisha club, the exclusive press club system of Japan's mainstream media, is contributing to the problem:

元々順位が低いのは記者クラブのせいだろうに。そこに一言も触れず原発事故と特定秘密保護法だけ取り上げるようなことをするから、ますます信用がなくなる

The original low ranking was probably the fault of the existence of the kisha club. And without mentioning a word in that regard, only picking up stories on the nuclear accident and the state secrets law, they lose more and more of their credibility.

Thumbnail photo is by Dick Thomas Johnson via Flickr (CC-BY-2.0)
Quotes were translated by Taylor Cazella

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