Japanese news anchors sacked as press freedom tightens

Japan has fallen from 11th to 61st place in Reporters Without Borders' World Press Freedom Index since 2010

Charlotte Beale
Saturday 20 February 2016 18:23
Comments
Japan's Internal Affairs and Communications Minister, Sanae Takaichi, who has said broadcasters could be forced to suspend operating if they continue to air programmes deemed politically biased.
Japan's Internal Affairs and Communications Minister, Sanae Takaichi, who has said broadcasters could be forced to suspend operating if they continue to air programmes deemed politically biased.

A leading Japanese television anchor has been replaced, the latest in a line of journalists ousted as Shinzo Abe’s government seeks to silence criticism, critics fear.

Hiroko Kuniya, an anchor known for her tough questioning style, will be replaced in April after 23 years hosting a social affairs show on public broadcaster NHK.

NHK has not disclosed why Ms Kuniya is leaving. It may be as a result of a probing interview last year with prime minster Shinzo Abe’s close advisor Yoshihide Suga, in which Ms Kuniya challenged new security legislation, The Economist reports.

Other broadcasters to have lost their jobs include Ichiro Furutachi and Shigetada Kishii, who both frequently criticised the government on air.

“Newscasters at times represent the voices against the powers that be”, Mr Furutachi said in a press conference announcing his departure last year.

Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi said recently that broadcasters could be forced to suspend operating if they continue to air programmes deemed politically biased, the Japan Times reported.

Japanese law requires that broadcast content must be “politically neutral”.

But Ms Kuniya’s show, Close-up Gendai, “was a challenge to the well-managed official version of reality that appears on NHK’s own regular newscasts”, former New York Times bureau chief and journalist in residence at the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation Martin Fackler told the Japan Times.

“It was one of the few efforts…to do anything remotely approaching investigative, public-interest journalism”.

Japan has fallen from 11th to 61st place in Reporters without Borders‘ World Press Freedom Index of 180 countries since 2010.

Marking five years since Japan's tsunami

Stringent security laws were introduced in 2013, under which journalists could be jailed for up to five years for obtaining classified information.

In 2014, the government reportedly instructed mainstream television stations on how to select news topics and interview subjects, according to independent watchdog Freedom House. The networks were also requested to avoid “one-sided” coverage.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in