• Kyodo

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The government on Wednesday brushed aside a U.N. rights expert’s concerns about its influence over the media, saying the country has always upheld freedom of expression.

“The Japanese government’s explanation was not sufficiently reflected” in the report and opinions of David Kaye, U.N. special rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told a Diet committee.

Kaye aired his concerns on Tuesday at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan as he concluded weeklong research on the situation regarding freedom of expression in the nation that included meetings with government officials, civic groups, journalists and lawyers.

“It is regrettable. The government has never exerted pressure on the media,” Foreign Press Secretary Yasuhisa Kawamura said at a separate news conference, in response to Kaye’s comments.

Kaye said “the independence of the press is facing serious threats” from the government, citing the broadcasting law and the contentious law for the prevention of leaks of state secrets that took effect in 2014.

The expert also said in his report, “I have also received firsthand reports of newspapers delaying or canceling the publication of articles, or demoting or transferring reporters after writing articles critical of the government.”

He is set to submit a fuller report to the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2017.

“We will appropriately respond to the matter so that the report will be objective and based on facts,” Kishida said.

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