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Category: Japan

Controlling the Media in Japan

Written by Griseldis Kirsch.

“Freedom of assembly and association as well as speech, press and all other forms of expression are guaranteed. No censorship shall be maintained, nor shall the secrecy of any means of communication be violated.” (Article 21, Constitution of Japan)

In spite of this clear embracement of Freedom of Press, Japanese politicians, most notably of the ruling conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP for short) have long been engaged in fights to maintain control over the media. How is this even possible in a country that has a democratic constitution in which all human rights are enshrined?

Looking back at the history of the mass media in Japan, censorship was a common practice before 1945. State-controlled censors made sure that the news that were put on the air, or printed, were in line with government policy. This, naturally, worsened during the Asia-Pacific-War (1937-1945), as Japanese failures had to be disguised as successes. During the Occupation (1945-1952), a democratic Constitution was drafted, yet ‘tradition’, or customary right, continued to co-exist alongside. The press clubs, kisha kurabu in Japanese, is one such example. Founded in the late 19th century, they are informal gatherings between authorities and media, accessible only by invitation. Generally, all media outlets would have access to the important press clubs, and they have become the most important means of passing on information. As a result, newspaper headlines in Japan, at least of the big national newspapers, are fairly similar, and articles tend to be descriptive rather than analytical – as they all share the same source of information.

Japan’s government has politicised a generation with its constitutional reforms

Written by Oana Burcu.

As the Japanese government continues to press ahead with controversial changes to its “peaceful constitution”, it continues to fuel domestic protests and fails to get full endorsement from the members of its own ruling party. Prioritising foreign policy while dismissing domestic opposition is hardly a wise course, and Shinzo Abe’s government seems not to have fully anticipated the political risks.

Trouble has been brewing for a while, but rose to a new level in the summer of 2014 when a man self-immolated in Tokyo in June 2014 to protest the reinterpretation of Article 9, which was intended to renounce war permanently.

Disaster, Development and Urban Risk: a comment on the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction

Written by Pauline Eadie.

The World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) was held in Sendai, Japan from 14-18 March 2015. The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) organized the conference. The objective of the conference was to facilitate a post-2015 framework for disaster relief. The result of the WCDRR was the non-binding Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR). ‘Post-2015’ is now embedded in the lexicon of development practitioners as a signifier of the post Millennium Development Goal (MDG) era.  2015 also heralds the end of the ten-year Hyogo Framework for Action: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disaster (HFA). The HFA listed five priorities for Action that involved scaling up institutional and cultural awareness of safety, risk and resilience ‘at all levels’. A key theme was preparedness, including early warning.