Documents exposing regulation of Okinawa’s free speech under US administration found

Documents exposing regulation of Okinawa’s free speech under US administration found

Official documents relating to publication handled by the Government of the Ryukyu Islands.


December 31, 2015 Ryukyu Shimpo by Mamoru Yasuda

As of December 30, a large quantity of documentation from the Government of the Ryukyu Islands regarding the regulation of freedom of speech under U.S. administration was discovered. These were documents handled by the Ryukyu government between January 1953 and June 1956, including applications to publish writings, official documents within the Ryukyu government, English-written letters of inquiry to the U.S. Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands (USCAR), and notices of authorization or lack thereof. Instead of being held at the Okinawa Prefectural Archives, the documents were preserved in an Okinawan household.

Official documents relating to publications were filed in volumes sorted by year. The years 1953 and 1954 each amounted to three volumes, 1955 was contained in two, and January through June of 1956 made up three volumes. There were eleven volumes consisting of 3,900 pages in total. These were designated as documents for permanent preservation within the secretarial division of the Government of the Ryukyu Islands.

Among the applications to publish were those for a political bulletin titled Jinmin (The People) written by politician Kamejiro Senaga of the local political party Okinawa Jinminto, and Kyoiku Shimbun (The Education Newspaper) proposed by Chobyo Yara, who would become chief executive of the Government of the Ryukyu Islands in 1968. There were even applications for school-specific writings such as literature written by students of University of the Ryukyus, reports of study abroad experiences in the U.S., Ryukyuan poetry, and high school literary magazines and newspapers.

When considering these applications, the Government of the Ryukyu Islands would repeatedly request investigations and records thereof from the Ryukyu police (formed under the Ryukyu government) about any applicant’s ideological tendencies, political affiliations, living arrangements, and personal relationships.

Aside from applications to publish, there were many other types of documents found. Applications to continue publishing periodicals, reports of discontinuing publications, and notifications of name alterations of publishers were also included. In addition there were directives to investigate for publication purposes handled by officials of the Government of the Ryukyu Islands in regional branch offices, notices of new proclamations, and other official documents and letters exchanged between administrative organs.

The numbers of confirmed applications and directives were 96 in 1953, 61 in 1954, 103 in 1955, and 75 in 1956 for a total of 335 documents. This includes not only publications that were authorized, but also applications that were not authorized or rejected.

In October 1953 the USCAR reevaluated all periodicals that had already been authorized for publication, and required each newspaper company or publisher to submit data and materials related to management of the operation, in addition to an application for continued publication. For one, the Ryukyu Shimpo submitted a register of all employees’ names.
At the time, the Government of the Ryukyu Islands was recognized by USCAR. Even if the Ryukyu government considered a publication allowable, however, if the USCAR did not, conditions would be added before authorization would be granted.

The discovered documents are suspected to have been stored at Okinawa Prefectural Government Headquarters. However, following Okinawa’s reversion to Japan, during the reconstruction of the Headquarters in the 1980s, these documents were probably removed to avoid damage dealt by demolition of old structures and not returned.

Naoki Monna, emeritus professor at Rikkyo University, has detailed knowledge of the regulation of freedom of speech under U.S. administration. While he was a graduate student in February 1966, he examined a portion of these documents himself, which were in storage at the Government of the Ryukyu Islands. He noted his surprise at the recent discovery of the documents, and mentioned that they reveal the fact that the U.S. military administration denied freedom of expression and speech that are fundamental human rights for Okinawans.

(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)

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