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HOME  > Past issues  > 2017 December 6 - 12  > Journalists should be freedom builders
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2017 December 6 - 12 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Journalists should be freedom builders

December 9, 2017
Akahata 'current' column

The mass media has profusely been reporting on Emperor Akihito's abdication date which the government has just decided will be on April 30 of 2019. It is true that this issue attracts public interest. However, the extensive media coverage such as special programs recalling back on the era of Heisei (1989-, after his enthronement) is a little too much.

"Japan's journalism has dead." This was a comment many journalists made around the time of Emperor Hirohito's death with the intention of self-criticism. All the media at that time released a spate of overheated reports in a stereotypical, uncritical tone, which in turn triggered a society-wide mood of self-control.

Hara Toshio, a former chief editor of Kyodo News, summarized the excess media reports: Except for only a very few media, they lost their independence. Most media, unwilling to break the "taboo" on criticism or parodying the Imperial family, adopted self-censorship and left Hirohito's war responsibility ambiguous.

For 20 years until the end of the Pacific War, Hara spent his adolescent years as an emperor-centered patriot. After the war, he chose to become a journalist because he wanted to live freely and humanely and thought that this was a career that would enable him to live most honestly according to his conscience. He resolved never to be a servant of authority and power.

This determination was embodied in reports on the so-called Sugo Incident in which security police made up a bombing scenario and carried it out by itself in order to put this crime on Japanese Communist Party members. Hara searched for a police officer, the culprit, whom the police organization had harbored, leading to his arrest in the end. After experiencing the fear of power, Hara said that he found it is important for journalists to watch those with power from the public standpoint.

He, while he was alive, spoke of the importance of freedom of expression and how journalism should be free of restraint. His enthusiastic messages woke many journalists up. Journalists are not consumers of freedom. They are freedom producers and builders.

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