The Hatoyama administration has told government ministries and agencies to stop, in principle, the holding of news conferences by administrative vice ministers, the top-ranking bureaucrats of government ministries. The thinking behind the decision is that Cabinet ministers are the top leaders of government ministries and agencies; therefore, administrative vice ministers should not behave as if the leadership role was theirs. The decision is part of the administration’s effort to take the initiative for developing policies from the hands of bureaucrats.

The ban has since been loosened somewhat, but it could still restrict reporters’ news-gathering activities, creating the danger that the government’s decision-making process will become opaque or concealed. The ban could undermine people’s right to know — the basis of democracy.

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