The big media-related news story on April 1 was the ongoing controversy over the documentary feature “Yasukuni,” screenings of which had been canceled by a number of movie theaters in Tokyo and Osaka out of fear of rightwing protests. That night, NHK’s regular 7 p.m. news bulletin did not mention the film, but it did feature a report on the public broadcaster’s reply to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications that it would “accept” the government’s request for NHK to promote Japan’s “national interests” in its overseas broadcasts.

Though the two stories aren’t related, much of their newsworthiness is based on the connection between government funding and the right of free expression. In the case of “Yasukuni,” which is directed by Chinese filmmaker Li Ying, a 20-year resident of Japan, at least part of the controversy centers on a ¥7.5 million grant that the production received in 2006 from the Agency for Cultural Affairs. Some politicians believe that the film, which examines the embattled Shinto shrine dedicated to Japan’s war dead, has an anti-Japan bias. Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Tomomi Inada, who is also a lawyer, has questioned whether or not the movie deserved such a grant, saying that it shouldn’t be given to projects with a political agenda.

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