A perfect storm is descending on freedom of the press in Japan: The country just sank to No. 72 in the global press freedom ranking issued Wednesday by Reporters Without Borders, down from No. 11 in 2010. And David Kaye, the U.N. special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, gave a press conference in Tokyo on Tuesday decrying censorship, weak legal protections and media intimidation in Japan — consequences of various media-muzzling initiatives by the Shinzo Abe administration. It also emerged that one Liberal Democratic Party member is the designated Internet attack dog who goes after foreign journalists for criticizing Abe, while in Sekai magazine, ousted NHK anchor Hiroko Kuniya talked about Japan's unfavorable media culture that inhibits robust journalism. Abe's press-freedom black eye comes just as "Spotlight" opens in theaters, and a month before G-7 leaders arrive.

The film "Spotlight" won Oscars for best picture and best original screenplay at the 2016 Academy Awards. It is a film about The Boston Globe's titular investigative journalism unit, who conduct in-depth investigations into issues that don't get adequately covered in the day-to-day news.

There could never be a Japanese version of this Oscar-winning film because journalists here are so coopted and intimidated that they dare not tackle stories that uncover systemic institutionalized wrongdoing. They fear that even if they did, the powers that be could never be taken down — the judicial system is rigged in their favor. So why bother?