Editorial: UN special rapporteur indicates freedom of expression in Japan in danger; infringing on freedom of expression is inexcusable

June 7, 2019 Ryukyu Shimpo

Freedom of expression is in a crisis in Japan.

In a new report released by David Kaye, the United Nation’s special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, is demanding that the Japanese government respect the right to assembly and expression, as it continues to apply pressure on things such as the protests surrounding the relocation of MCAS Futenma to Henoko in Nago.

The Japanese government should take Kaye’s criticisms seriously, and completely stop all behavior that threatens freedom of assembly and freedom of expression.

The UN’s special rapporteurs are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), and is responsible for conducting surveys and observing specific counties for different areas of human rights. It is also required to act independently of any country or other organization. Kaye is an expert in international human rights law and international humanitarian law.

In a report from 2017, it notes that things such as the Special Designated Secrets Act has the potential to undermine journalism in Japan, and it recommends amending the law as well as abolishing amendment 4 of the Broadcast Act, which can be used as a justification for halting a broadcaster’s broadcast.

The report also expresses concern over the pressure the government is applying on the protests against the new base construction in Okinawa, and advised against infringing on the freedom to demonstrate in opposition of public policy, and suggested the government cooperate with the protests and related journalism.

The new report once again criticizes the Japanese government, stating that almost none of the previous report’s recommendations have been implemented.

In a globally recognized position such as Kaye’s, his statements carry a lot of weight. The status of freedom us expression in Japan, and its drastic deviation from global standards, is once again brought into the light of day. It is a situation that should cause great anxiety for the citizens of Japan, because their human rights are being disrespected.

Needless to say, freedom of expression is a basic human right that is foundational to a democratic government. If these rights are arbitrarily restricted, it allows the establishment to easily conceal any damaging information.

If information used for making a decision is not publicly accessible at the time of an election, it brings into doubt the ability to properly examine governing bodies. The result of this is a major destabilizer to the foundation of democracy.

At the construction site for the new military facilities in Henoko, the restriction of anti-base protests and news coverage is striking. At the front gate of Camp Schwab where raw materials are being trucked in, the forceful removal of protesters staging a sit-in by police continues.

Journalists are having their new coverage interrupted, they are being expelled from locations, and they are being forced to cease photography.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga rejected Kaye’s report, saying, “We cannot accept this report, which is filled with inaccuracies and unfounded claims.” To make light of the UN’s special rapporteur is inappropriate for a member of the international community. It negatively affects trust in Japan.

We cannot allow the freedom of assembly and expression to be neglected. We suggest the government engage in some serious reflection.

(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)

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