Press freedom

Japan: Hey. What are you doing?

Me: Just reading the news.

Japan: Anything interesting?

Me: Nah. Same shit, different day.

Japan: Yeah?

Me: Yeah. Although, there was one story I read recently. It said that there has been a huge drop in the amount of your press freedom.

Japan: Ah, yeah, that.

Me: Apparently you now rank seventy second out of 180 countries. Six years ago you ranked 11th. What happened?

Japan: Well, it seems that my current government has not exactly been staying away from, interfering and pressuring media outlets. Politicians have advocated punishing news outlets that have critical views of the government. Television presenters who have spoken out about the government have been removed from their jobs. Journalists have reported that they have been marginalised or silenced following pressure from politicians.

Me: So the political administration wants to keep people uninformed?

Japan: Well, I think that’s what most governments want. If the media reports the facts about something, governments are very unhappy if they don’t match their narrative, policies and aims.

Me: But for your lawmakers and officials to be so open about this is not good. It feels like something dictatorial governments do.

Japan: Right, yeah.

Me: So, how do your people feel about it?

Japan: Good question. I’m not sure if people know a lot about it because the government isn’t keen on the idea of everybody knowing everything. I mean, it’s not so dissimilar to other countries it’s just at the moment it seems more covert and dishonest.

Me: I really don’t like this.

Japan: Look, it’s nothing new. Governments all over the world are pretty good at getting in the way of the truth. Recently, after the earthquake in Kyushu the NHK Chairman and friend of the government, Katsuto Momii, gave instructions that the public broadcaster should only give the official government line when reporting on the nuclear reactor situation in Kyushu.

Me: Why?

Japan: To make sure that the government’s version of events get lots of airtime.

Me: And, therefore, not the whole truth.

Japan: Yeah, whatever that is.

Me: Hmm. So what are we going to do?

Japan: Well, i don’t know. There’s not an easy solution. The historical precedent for when people are generally helpless against the government controlling the direction of a country through its media isn’t a fun one.

Me: But this is just so amazingly shit. I like you. You’re a well made, amusing, interesting, bizarre, cultured nation and your leaders are actively screwing over its own media and people. This is not making the world a better place.

Japan: True.

Me: So where does this go next? News outlets being more forcefully censored? More dodging of the truth? And where does that lead?

Japan: Erm, well, if you factor in the new state secrets act, the potentially dangerous change in the interpretation of the constitution and the increase in military spending along with the perceived aggression of the USA, China and North Korea, well, in a worst case scenario…

Me: War, what is it good for?

Japan: Absolutely nothing.

Me: What a fantastic group of arseholes your government seems to be.

 

<THIS MESSAGE HAS BEEN APPROVED BY THE MINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS>

 

 

 

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May 27, 2016. Tags: , , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

State Secrets

Me: I understand you’ve recently introduced a new law called the State Secrets Act.

Japan: That’s right.

Me: And why was this done?

Japan: To increase the security of information.

Me: So, your information wasn’t safe?

Japan: Well, not safe enough, no. I think now it’s much more difficult for people to gain access to information that my government doesn’t want people to otherwise know about.

Me: And what would happen if somebody found out and published this kind of information?

Japan: They’d be put in jail for at least ten years.

Me: Really? Wow. That seems a little severe.

Japan: Well, on the face of it, yes, but if there’s one thing we’ve all learned from the whole Edward Snowden, NSA, leaks thing it’s that governments hiding things is very important and if somebody were to publish something the government doesn’t like –

Me: Such as the truth?

Japan: Such as the truth, then we wouldn’t want that person to spend a few weeks trying to piece their life back together in the transit lounge of an airport and then live the rest of their life in forced exile, would we?

Me: So it would be easier to just throw them in prison for ten years minimum?

Japan: Exactly.

Me: It seems that your government has quite a bit of power in this situation.

Japan: Well, not really. I would like to point out that it’s not the government that decides what is or is not considered a state secret.

Me: So, who does?

Japan: Bureaucrats.

Me: Bureaucrats?

Japan: Yes.

Me: Who employs these bureaucrats?

Japan: Well, the government, of course.

Me: But –

Japan: You see, what we’re trying to do here is avoid any problems of transparency.

Me: But this will mean there’s less transparency.

Japan: Exactly. If there’s less transparency there’s less of a chance of having any problems with it.

Me: And are there any plans for an independent oversight committee to judge and overrule the decisions about what information should or should not be withheld from public knowledge?

Japan: Oh yes, probably, but, you know, you can’t rush these things, can you?

Me: Especially when increasingly reactionary forces are just making things up as they go along?

Japan: Well, yes. That’s the very essence of government.

Me: So, this must have created quite a lot of debate?

Japan: Oh yeah. Huge debate.

Me: The lower house debate was live on TV, wasn’t it?

Japan: It was. Until NHK had to end the coverage for other scheduled programming at which point the government just rammed the bill through with the help of the coalition anyway.

Me: And then it went to the upper house of parliament for more debate?

Japan: That’s correct. Then they voted and passed it into law.

Me: And how long did that debate last?

Japan: Oh, a few hours.

Me: And this occurred at a time when the people could watch and evaluate the pros and cons of the arguments with sober reflection?

Japan: Kind of…

Me: When was it?

Japan: Friday night.

Me: And how long has this potentially society affecting discussion been going on?

Japan: Erm, a couple of weeks.

Me: Is that all?

Japan: Well you have to be decisive about these things. Timing is everything.

Me: How long have your politicians been debating about the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP?

Japan: Three years.

Me: And are they any closer to forming any opinions?

Japan: Oh, there’s plenty of opinion. Most of it conflicting conjecture voiced by angry men in suits in front of microphones. Oh, yeah, loads of opinions. Too many really. That’s the problem with democracy.

Me: And so what do your people think about all this?

Japan: Who?

Me: Your people?

Japan: Oh them. They’re great, aren’t they?

Me: Yeah, but what do they think about the State Secrets Act?

Japan: Ah, erm, some people protested about it but not many and not for very long.

Me: I guess they didn’t have much time.

Japan: Right.

Me: And everybody else?

Japan: Er, well, most people seem to be working quite a bit, possibly too much. Or they’re quite often preoccupied with the screens of their mobile phones. Or buying stuff. People like stuff, don’t they?

Me: Right…

Japan: Look, don’t worry. What they don’t know can’t hurt them.

Me: And now there’s less chance they’ll know anything.

Japan: Exactly. See. I’m just making things safer.

Me: Well, thanks for building a better world to live in.

Japan: No problem.

December 13, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.