ISE, MIE PREF. – As part of the government’s plan to boost Japan’s reputation among the world’s journalists, it has opened an International Media Center (IMC) in Ise, Mie Prefecture, for media members covering the Group of Seven summit.
Despite this apparent hospitality toward the press, however, the government is denying them, ostensibly for security reasons, what they need most: access to the meeting that begins Thursday.
According to the Foreign Ministry, about 6,000 journalists and other media-related people have registered for entry to the IMC, which takes up all of the massive Sun Arena stadium and its attached sports facilities.
Staff from 138 overseas media outlets and 107 Japanese companies are expected to attend the annual event, which this year is hosted by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the ministry said.
The central government reportedly is planning to spend ¥60 billion on the summit, ¥34 billion of which will be eaten up by security measures to prevent acts of terrorism and other potential crimes targeting visiting world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama.
The ministry opened a large exhibition room to show off some of the nation’s industrial products and technology, such as the nation’s shinkansen and state-of-the-art rockets and satellites.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet services will be offered free of charge to media representatives working out of the center, and two snack corners will be open around the clock from Wednesday through Saturday.
There is, however one significant drawback: The media center is located about 20 km north of Kashikojima Island, the main venue for the summit, and journalists will be allowed onto the island only on limited occasions.
High-ranking Japanese officials, who are also staying on Kashikojima, plan to brief reporters at the center via teleconference after major sessions end.
Bahag-Richard Atrero de Guzman, a video journalist from the Philippines, is covering G-7 events for a German news agency.
He said the registration process for journalists was “very complicated” and the Japanese government is rather slow in giving information to the press at the media center.
Meanwhile, Svenning Dalgaard, another journalist at the IMC and an international editor for TV 2 News in Denmark, said he’s paying the closest attention to economic issues that will be discussed at the upcoming summit sessions.
“There is worry that Japan may be trying to lower its Japanese currency, the yen, in order to try to export its own economic problems to other countries,” he said.
The hope, then, is “that you can get an agreement that no country is going to manipulate its currencies,” he added.
But he said past examples suggest a summit like this seldom leads to any meaningful agreement, so there is some “pessimism” toward this particular summit as well, he said.
A reporter from the BBC who requested anonymity said he is particularly interested in China-related issues and whether Abe will use “robust language” against China’s territorial assertiveness.
The reporter said Britain has spent so much “diplomatic energy” in recent months building a close relationship with Beijing that British Prime Minister David Cameron is unlikely to criticize it himself.
“I think Britain wouldn’t want to do it themselves. They don’t want to upset their new friend,” the reporter said.
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