TOKYO – A United Nations expert on freedom of expression warned Tuesday of “serious threats” to the independence of the Japanese media, owing to certain laws and measures brought in by the country’s government.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye said the Japanese media is under persistent pressure from the Japanese government, at a press conference in Tokyo Tuesday, news agency Kyodo reported.
According to him, the Japanese media is carrying out the task of informing with “a weak system of legal protection” and face significant challenges in terms of freedom of press, a right enshrined in the country’s Constitution.
The UN representative also rued that Japanese law allows the government to suspend the license of a broadcaster if it is found to be reporting in a biased manner, emphasizing a government cannot decide what is politically just.
Kaye also mentioned the law pertaining to official secrets, in force since 2014, and which permits the government to classify information as a state secret according to its own parameters, awarding the leak of such information with up to ten years of imprisonment.
The rapporteur added the extent of information that could be labeled a state secret was too broad and needed to be narrowed down and urged Japan to amend the legislation to protect journalists and their sources from criminal penalties.
The passing of the law had stirred a huge controversy in the Asian country, with big cities such as Tokyo, Nagoya, Hiroshima and Fukuoka witnessing mass protests against it.
The conclusions of the expert report, which studies freedom of expression in Japan, will be presented before the UN Human Rights Council in 2017.