Japanese government upholds freedom of press

The opinion pieces by Jeff Kingston in the June 11 edition and William Pesek in the June 14 paper presented their interpretation of the relations between Japan and special rapporteurs mandated by the U.N. Human Rights Council.

According to U.N. Human Rights Council resolution A/HRC/RES/5/2, special rapporteurs shall “act in an independent capacity,” and “exercise their functions on a personal basis,” and thus, as is widely known, they do not represent the views of the U.N. as a whole.

The Japanese government fully cooperates with special rapporteurs for constructive dialogue and objective reports. As the above-mentioned resolution defines that special rapporteurs shall “give representatives of the concerned State the opportunity of commenting on mandate-holders’ (special rapporteurs’) assessment and of responding to the allegations made against this State,” like any other country, we may refute inaccurate assessments if they make unilateral assertions. In 2015, the rapporteur on the sale of children admitted that there was no objective data supporting her estimate after Japan refuted the figures. Recently, we protested a letter written by Joseph Cannataci, a rapporteur on privacy, who had not sought to collect information from the Japanese government before he publicized the letter. We pointed out that the concerned draft bill to fulfill the obligations of the U.N. Convention against Transnational Organized Crime is highly restrained in comparison with the treaty’s 187 State Parties’ domestic laws. For further details of the bill, I invite the readers to see my comments to The Japan Times on June 11.

In the case of David Kaye, a rapporteur for freedom of expression, when he visited Japan in April last year, we arranged meetings with relevant ministries and Diet members, and provided thorough explanations to facilitate his understanding of Japan’s actual situation. We have continued the dialogue since then.

Yet, regrettably, some parts of his report were written without an accurate understanding of our explanation and positions. Japan’s official comments are already submitted to the U.N., but let me reiterate some important points.

Regarding media independence, Japan’s Constitution enshrines freedom of expression and fully guarantees the right to know. No government officials have put pressure on journalists illegally and wrongfully. There are no cases in which the operation suspension order was applied by the Broadcast Act. The act does not give rise to any pressure on the media.

Regarding the Specially Designated Secrets Act, information designated as SDS is limited under strict conditions. Information gathering activities performed by journalists are not punishable under the act.

Let me finally emphasize that the Japanese government has been and will remain fully committed to freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

NORIO MARUYAMA
PRESS SECRETARY, JAPANESE FOREIGN MINISTRY

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.