Japanese journalists allege government pressure on media

TOKYO (AP) — Five Japanese journalists accused Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government Thursday of pressuring broadcasters to reduce criticism of its policies, but also lamented what they called a failure by media to live up to their convictions.

They spoke at a news conference after Minister of Communications Sanae Takaichi warned broadcasters last month that their licenses could be revoked if they failed to be impartial in political coverage.

Japan’s broadcast law says programs must be “politically fair,” and Takaichi said several times in parliament that a station that repeatedly fails in this regard could have its license revoked. Despite multiple protests that her comments constituted a threat to freedom of the press, she has not backed down.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the government’s top spokesman, also has defended her comments as “common sense.”

The journalists said both Takaichi’s comments and the government response have been unacceptable, and vowed to continue their protest.

“Of all ruling Liberal Democratic Party governments, the Abe administration is most nervously checking what the media say, because what’s said on television affects his support ratings,” said Shuntaro Torigoe, a former Mainichi newspaper journalist and news anchor on TV Asahi. “In Japan today, rather than the media watching the authorities, the government watches the media.”

The resignation of three outspoken newscasters this month has prompted further speculation of government interference as it attempts to build public support for contentious policies, such as a broadening of Japan’s military role.