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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 February 6 - 12  > Union protests Abe gov’t attempt to restrict journalists’ right to ask politically sensitive questions
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2019 February 6 - 12 TOP3 [POLITICS]

Union protests Abe gov’t attempt to restrict journalists’ right to ask politically sensitive questions

February 7, 2019

The Japan Federation of Newspaper Workers’ Unions (Shimbun Roren) on February 5 published a statement of protest against the Prime Minister’s Office attempting to exclude a specific journalist from the Abe government spokesperson’s regular press briefing.

In December 2018, at a regular press conference by Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide, a Tokyo Shimbun reporter asked questions regarding the landfill work for the construction of a new U.S. base in Henoko. The reporter grilled Suga about an allegation that landfill materials contain red soil which has a harmful impact on the ocean environment. Soon after this briefing, the Prime Minister’s Office submitted a statement to the Cabinet Office-attached press club whose members can participate in press conferences held at the Prime Minister’s Office.

The statement points out that the reporter in question asked Suga questions “based on speculations” and that this constitutes a “problem”. It calls on the press club to “understand the situation”, hinting at the need to exclude this reporter which is an extreme demand.

Shimbun Roren in its written protest criticized the Prime Minister’s Office for attempting to close the door to reporters who ask inconvenient questions to government officials. It said that this act is totally unacceptable as it is tantamount to restricting the right of journalists to determine the facts, leading to restraint on people’s right to information. The Abe government should stop making such moves, Shimbun Roren added.

Furthermore, the media workers’ union pointed out that journalists are tasked to give those in power the third degree from various angles, which contributes to guaranteeing the general public their right to know. The union urged the Prime Minister’s Office to hold a regular briefing in a fair and just manner.
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