Japan was previously 11th in ranking in World Press Freedom Index of Reporters without Border. However, since 2011 its ranking has come down to the 61st position. International watchdogs have speculated that the enactment of controversial law in 2014 to protect states secrets is the possible reason behind the fall in the ranking in World Press Freedom Index.
This law enables the government to sentence those who disclose state secrets, up to 10 years, stated Asia Times. Allegations have been made that the present government cannot stand criticism and enacted the law to punish those who question the government on its policies. It has also been alleged that the latest victim of Shinzo Abey government’s wrath is Hiroko Kuniya.
Hiroko Kuniya who is with public broadcasters NHK for 23 years will be replaced in April, as reported by Independent. She was hosting a social affair show for these years she was with them. The public broadcaster did not reveal the reason behind the replacement. It is speculated that the replacement is the consequence of the news anchor’s inquisitive interview with the Japanese prime minister’s close advisor Yoshihide Suga. During the interview Ms Kuniya challenged new security legislation.
Although, Kuniya refused to comment on her departure she expressed her views on journalism to Japan Times. She said, “I have consciously been trying to follow in the footsteps of Ted Koppel…When I was studying in the U.S., ‘Nightline’ (the news program) started and I remember being glued to his fair and in-depth interviews. He has definitely taught me what journalism should be.”
Martin Fackler, journalist in residence at the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation and former New York Times bureau chief said that Kuniya’s work stood apart from her contemporaries. Her news analysis programme “Close-up Gendai” was refreshing and an example of investigative and public interest journalism.
Kuniya is not the only one to be replaced. Ichiro Furutachi and Shigetada Kishii are other two broadcasters who had to leave their jobs. Incidentally both of them have frequently criticized the government.
Furutachi when asked about his replacement, commented, “Newscasters at times represent the voices against the powers that be.”
He also stated, “Kuniya is just the latest high-profile journalist to be muzzled by media companies that appear to have grown incredibly risk-adverse, seeking to play it safe by just repeating what they are told in the press clubs, and shunning any topic or story that might draw criticism.”
Imposing laws on journalist criticizing the government is not what the world expects from a developed country like Japan.
Recently, Japan showed its disapproval by imposing ban on North Korea after the latter’s missile launch.