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Sanae Takaichi warns that government can shut down broadcasters it feels are biased

by

Staff Writer

Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi said the government can order broadcasters to suspend operations if they continue to air TV programming that is deemed politically biased, a remark that may be perceived as repressing free speech.

During a Lower House Budget Committee session Tuesday, Takaichi, a conservative Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker, repeated her assertion from the previous day that the government is legally authorized to order stations and networks to cease broadcasting if they ignore official calls to remain “politically neutral,” as stipulated in the broadcasting law.

“I don’t think I would resort to such measures myself. But there is no guarantee that future internal affairs ministers won’t,” Takaichi said Tuesday.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga defended Takaichi, saying she merely reiterated the government’s traditional stance on the matter and that her remark was made strictly in accordance with existing law.

Her original remark Monday was in response to the claim by Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Soichiro Okuno that a string of newscasters known for their candid critiques of the powerful, such as Hiroko Kuniya at NHK and Ichiro Furutachi at TV Asahi, are stepping down in the coming months.

Okuno also pointed out that the LDP, headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, appears to be tightening its grip on the media.

In March last year, Shigeaki Koga, an outspoken former official in the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, announced on air he was ending his regular appearance on TV Asashi’s “Hodo Station” nightly news program, citing pressure from Suga.

Article 174 of the Broadcast Law states that the internal affairs minister is authorized to suspend broadcasting that violates the law, including that which fails to remain politically neutral.

“It sounds as if the government can suspend the activities of broadcasters or remove newscasters just because they criticized the government,” Okuno said.

In response, Takaichi said she “cannot promise” that the government will never take action against broadcasters who ignore official warnings. Okuno said such intervention from authorities will have a chilling effect on freedom of speech and the press.

During the Monday session, Takaichi also elaborated on what she defines as politically biased TV programming.

Examples include, she said, broadcasters who “highlight only one aspect of a polarizing political affair,” or are “persistently covering one candidate ahead of an election” to such an extent that the fairness of the event may be undermined.

Yasuhiko Tajima, a professor of media law at Sophia University in Tokyo, described Takaichi’s comment as “unjust” in that it could have a chilling effect on — and reinforce global skepticism of — Japan’s freedom of the press.

He also said the Broadcast Law’s mention of political neutrality, which according to Tajima was originally supposed to be a mere ethics guideline, should not be used to justify government intervention.

Furthermore, he pointed out, should the government go ahead with suspending certain politically biased TV programs, it would violate the Constitution, which guarantees the right to free speech.

Staff writer Ayako Mie contributed to this report

  • J.P. Bunny

    The article states that the government ordering broadcasters to suspend operations if it deems the contents to be politically biased may be be perceived as repressing free speech. Perceived…..no. It is repression of free speech, pure and simple. this Takaichi person has no business being in the Communications Ministry.

  • 151E

    Is this China or Japan? The media in this country need to grow an effing spine and fight back directly and aggressively against this kind of authoritarian government censorship mentality.

  • 151E

    Is this China or Japan? The media in this country need to grow an effing spine and fight back directly and aggressively against this kind of authoritarian government censorship mentality.

  • Ahojanen

    The move goes the other way around. Takaichi should instead de-regulate the license-application process and other red-tapes promoting newcomers’ entry into media. Currently Japan’s media establishments are over-protected with privilege including “connections” to authorities. I don’t think they deserve to be real sentinels for free speech.

  • Liars N. Fools

    Takaichi is one of Abe Shinzo’s wicked witches, well immersed in right wing Nippon Kaigi thinking, and ready to dispense ill will and venom at those who dare criticize the “beautiful country” that Abe has outlined.

  • http://www.sheldonthinks.com/ Andrew Sheldon

    When you have anti-intellectuals in the media and government you have what could be construed as a very dumb fight. Its akin to watching two drunks fight. You want caring and sharing, then you will have to give up on the democratic dream. It was always an illusion. Not that I’d want Abe a custodian of my freedom. The media in every Western country however it conducting their activities in the manner of a political party – that is one of the extortive mobs that participate in that delusion of ‘people participation’, representative democracy.

  • Charlie Sommers

    In a perfect world news would always be presented factually and with no bias. This is not a perfect world and censoring those that disagree with you will not make it one. Leave the news sources alone Abe and cohorts.

  • Shady Shita

    WOW ! So much for Democracy :/ , really sad to see Japan going with backwards mentality of Abe …

  • Two Cents

    Here’s a question to be raised in the Diet: Could NHK be shut down for abandoning neutrality in its refusal to raise issues which may question government actions? No, the only possible response is “neutrality” implies an unquestioning passing-along of government doings.

    There is no more Fourth Estate watchdog freedom of the press in Japan’s
    broadcast media. Prime Minister Abe is taking Japan back to the 1980s. In fact,
    it is a very Orwellian 1984 where “nuetral” means “pro”.

    Can Cool Japan save the day?

  • Al_Martinez

    Japan was at 61 on the World Press Freedom Index last year–expect that to fall even further.

  • disqus_fnwCMQDX7u

    So where is Shun Sakurai working now? Still in the Communications Ministry or not? I was surprised at how left-learning his son’s “The War They Don’t Teach in Textbooks” was. I wonder how “The Disasters They Don’t Teach in Textbooks”next month will be…

  • fromjapan

    Japan’s neoconservative ruling party “LDP” has hated Freedom of expression and Fundamental Human Rights.

    Moreover They have oppressed criticism against Abe government on the pretext of “political equality”.

  • Hideomi Kuze

    Totalitarianism like prewar is rampant in Japan again.

  • アルバチャコフ大佐~ゲー垢~

    To be frank, I don’t agree with her idea against free speech, but unfortunately, the quality of journalism in Japan is quite low in fact. Also in the article, the writer quotes only the person who meets his opinion. It’s terrible negligence of research, and all of journalists and media should make their articles or tv programs through interviewing various experts that have different thoughts.

  • bv

    The globalists are desperately trying to turn Japan into another human waste dump for Muslim refugees. Repressing free speech prepares the way b4 it starts.

  • Christina Tsuchida

    NHK reports in a biased way, usually for the ruling parties. Recently, it seems to me, NHK leaves out the opposing opinions. Is this not a violation of the law, too? It works both ways!

  • Christina Tsuchida

    NHK reports in a biased way, usually for the ruling parties. Recently, it seems to me, NHK leaves out the opposing opinions. Is this not a violation of the law, too? It works both ways!

  • bonitoflake

    Shouldn’t the “excluding terrestrial basic broadcasters” exemption in Broadcast Act Article 174 act as a get out of jail free card for NHK and the other terrestrial broadcastes?


    (Suspension of Operations)
    Article 174
    If the broadcaster (excluding terrestrial basic broadcasters) has violated this Act or an order or
    disposition based on this Act, the Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications shall set a period
    within three months and shall order the suspension of the operations of the broadcasting.

  • bonitoflake

    Shouldn’t the “excluding terrestrial basic broadcasters” exemption in Broadcast Act Article 174 act as a get out of jail free card for NHK and the other terrestrial broadcastes?


    (Suspension of Operations)
    Article 174
    If the broadcaster (excluding terrestrial basic broadcasters) has violated this Act or an order or
    disposition based on this Act, the Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications shall set a period
    within three months and shall order the suspension of the operations of the broadcasting.

  • Joe Dixon

    We need to stop trying to push our Northern European concepts of freedom and democracy on people such as the Japanese. Japan was always an absolute monarchy until democracy was forced on them by the West. Like Russia, the Japanese naturally will gravitate towards a government that suits their nature. Liberal Democracy was only created in one tiny area of the world by Anglo-Saxons and Scandinavians and suits their unique freedom loving nature. A form of democracy has existed in Iceland for 1000 years and because of this, one could honestly say that this system suits those people, Liberal democracy has only been in Japan for 70 years and is starting to fall apart. I say, so be it! With the increasing non-European population of the United States, one can see the United States starting to move to a more authoritarian type of system regardless of all the talk of “democracy”. This is what happens when you have too many competing groups.

  • fromjapan

    Newscaster and commentators who criticized Abe Govt have disappeared one after another from TV by political pressure.

    Japan’s public broadcast “NHK” gradually lose political independency.

    Criticism against Abe Govt is equal to Taboo among Major media in Japan.

    Japan’s ruling party politicians profess suppression against local newspapers of Okinawa who criticize Abe Govt.

  • Hideomi Kuze

    Ruling party “LDP” politicians have adored the prewar oppressive establishment “Great Japan Empire”.

  • fromjapan

    Takaichi has hated peaceful dissent than racism.

  • rwethi

    Article 4 (1) (ii): “It [the broadcasting] shall be politically fair” Question: WHO is going to decide WHAT is “politically fair”? Mr. Abe and/or his abettors (!) in the Japanese government? If yes: this would be the attitude of a dictatorship! Is Japan ruled by dictatorship?