Feb 19

Shinzo AbeJapan-cracks-collapse

Japanese Government Cracks Down Hard on the Media Amid Pitiful Economic Performance:

Their imminent departure from evening news programmes is not just a loss to their profession; critics say they were forced out as part of a crackdown on media dissent by an increasingly intolerant prime minister, Shinzo Abe, and his supporters.

Only last week, the internal affairs minister, Sanae Takaichi, sent a clear message to media organizations. Broadcasters that repeatedly failed to show “fairness” in their political coverage, despite official warnings, could be taken off the air, she told MPs.

Momii caused consternation after his appointment when he suggested that NHK would toe the government line on key diplomatic issues, including Japan’s territorial dispute with China. “International broadcasting is different from domestic,” he said. “It would not do for us to say ‘left’ when the government is saying ‘right’.”

From the Guardian article: Japanese TV Anchors Lose Their Jobs Amid Claims of Political Pressure

I’ve commented on the spectacular failure of Japan’s “Abenomics” several times in the past, most recently in last summer’s post, Japan’s Economic Disaster – Real Wages Lowest Since 1990, Record Numbers Describe “Hard” Living Conditions. Here’s what we learned:

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came to power vowing to drag Japan out of deflation and stagnation. His logic was that rising prices would drive higher salaries and increased consumption. More than two years on, prices are rising, but wages adjusted for inflation have sunk to the lowest since at least 1990.

A record 62 percent of Japanese households described their livelihoods as “hard” last year in a survey on incomes. A sales-tax increase in 2014 helped drive up living costs faster than wage gains.  At the same time, the Bank of Japan’s quantitative easing drove down the currency, boosting the cost of imported energy.

Fast forward a few months and things aren’t getting any better.

Earlier this week, Bloomberg reported:

With Japan’s economy shrinking, the stock market in turmoil, and a stronger yen threatening export earnings, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s calculus on whether to call a snap general election this summer has suddenly grown more complicated.
Another win in the lower chamber along with an expected victory in the upper house vote set for the summer could allow Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party to stay in power until 2020, making him the longest-serving premier since the 1970s. With ministerial blunders and economic woes eroding his support, Abe risks the opposition Democratic Party of Japan gaining ground in any double vote.
Abe has fought and won three straight elections on a vow to revive the economy with his Abenomics plan of loose monetary policy, flexible spending and structural reform. Now with his signature policy in disarray, he may be hard-pressed to reuse his 2014 election pitch of “Economic recovery: this is the only way.” Instead, he may paint himself as an experienced, steady hand in difficult times.

Let’s take stock of what we just read. Shinzo Abe promised the Japanese people a glorious economic recovery, but the economy sucks. Nevertheless, Shinzo Abe wants to stay in power as long as possible and the best way for him to achieve this is to call for snap elections this summer. This presents quite the dilemma. How does Abe prevent his popularity from slipping further in order to give himself a chance of winning early elections?

It seems he found his answer. Crackdown on the media by ensuring anyone who dares criticize him or him idiotic, failed polices is fired.

As the Guardian reports:

Many British politicians would doubtless rejoice at the news that Andrew Marr, Emily Maitlis and Andrew Neil were to leave their jobs almost simultaneously.

That is the fate that has befallen what could loosely be described as their counterparts in Japan – Ichiro Furutachi, Hiroko Kuniya and Shigetada Kishii – three respected broadcasters with a reputation for asking tough questions.

Their imminent departure from evening news programmes is not just a loss to their profession; critics say they were forced out as part of a crackdown on media dissent by an increasingly intolerant prime minister, Shinzo Abe, and his supporters.

Only last week, the internal affairs minister, Sanae Takaichi, sent a clear message to media organizations. Broadcasters that repeatedly failed to show “fairness” in their political coverage, despite official warnings, could be taken off the air, she told MPs.

Americans should heed this warning, so we understand that whenever someone argues for enforced “fairness” in the media, it means only one thing. If you criticize the government, you’ll be fired. 

Under broadcast laws, the internal affairs minister has the power to suspend broadcasting that does not maintain political neutrality.

What passes for a probing interview in Japan would be unlikely to set political pulses racing in Britain. But the three Japanese anchors have all courted controversy for refusing to follow the anodyne approach many of their colleagues take towards political coverage.

As the host of Hodo Station, a popular evening news programme on TV Asahi, Ichiro Furutachi was at the centre of a row last spring over claims by one of the show’s regular pundits, Shigeaki Koga, that he had been forced to quit under pressure from government officials angered by his criticism of the Abe administration.

Shigetada Kishii, who appears on News 23 on the TBS network, angered government supporters last year after criticizing security legislation pushed through parliament by Abe’s Liberal Democratic party (LDP).

If you need to get up to speed on the “security legislation,” see:

Video of the Day – Brawl Breaks Out in Japanese Parliament Over “War Bill”

Unusually Massive Protests Erupt in Japan Against Forthcoming “War Legislation”

Perhaps most striking of all is the departure of Kuniya, the veteran presenter of Close-up Gendai, a current affairs programme on public broadcaster NHK.

Her “crime” had been to irritate Yoshihide Suga, the chief cabinet secretary and a close Abe ally, with an unscripted follow-up question during a discussion about the security legislation.

While the anchors themselves have refused to comment, experts say Abe and his allies had made their feelings known about the broadcasters during secretive dinners with top media executives.

“It was not their decision to leave,” said Sanae Fujita of the Human Rights Centre at Essex University. “But their bosses gave in to pressure from their senior colleagues, who are ‘friends’ with Abe.

When he called a snap election in late 2014, the LDP wrote to TV networks in Tokyo demanding that they “ensure fairness, neutrality and correctness” in their coverage.

Momii caused consternation after his appointment when he suggested that NHK would toe the government line on key diplomatic issues, including Japan’s territorial dispute with China. “International broadcasting is different from domestic,” he said. “It would not do for us to say ‘left’ when the government is saying ‘right’.”

I mean, wow.

Attempts to intimidate the media as well as the passage of a state secrets law in 2013 under which reporters can be imprisoned for up to five years have battered Japan’s international reputation.

Last year it came 61st out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ global press freedom rankings. That compares with 12th place in 2010.

As always, when all else fails, silence the press.

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