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Friday, April 08, 2005

More on the Japanese media

An article on Oh My News yesterday, originally from the Financial Times no less, provides some more detail on the subject of my earlier post concerning Asano Kenichi on the Japanese media. The last couple of paragraphs are particularly striking on the international dimensions (the whole thing's worth reading, so don't be lazy...).

In short, Japan's fourth estate has a giant pro-government sign on the lawn. Its lack of independence weakens democracy in the world's second largest economy and the impunity with which Japan's government manipulates it undermines press freedom globally. Indeed, the west's recent reporting scandals suggest its media are drifting more towards the Japanese model than the other way round.

While the European Union protests against Japan's press club system and Asian countries decry Japan's nationalist propaganda and historical amnesia, the Bush administration lauds Japan as a success story of democratic nation building. But Japanese propagandizing will continue and spread unless the U.S. demonstrates its commitment to promoting democracy, and press freedom applies not just in Lebanon, Iraq or Russia but everywhere else, including Japan.

In particular, the authors look at Japan's cozy system of press clubs where reporters are spoon-fed 'stories' by official institutions. The press clubs are something I also remember clearly from my rather limited experience of working at Korean newspapers. Basically a lot of journalists I met were paid to sit around in the press rooms of whatever ministry/government office/national headquarters they were reporting on and then write a story on the press release of the day. Of course they did get more juicy stories, but they usually came after an evening spent drinking with the officials of the office in question.But as Asano Kenichi pointed out in his lecture, those days are over in Korea (in theory at least). One of President Roh's early reforms was to ablolish the press club system and open up access to government to a much broader range of media. This New York Times article (reproduced, slightly confusingly by The Seoul Times) gives a good overview of the changes.


At April 19, 2005 6:28 AM, Blogger Muninn said...

Wow, that article is way off the mark.

The press clubs are definitely a problem and NHK has occasionally surrendered to government pressure but the article fails to even mention the strong anti-government element in the Japanese media, particularly from Asahi which was, until recently, the top selling paper.

Asahi's long history of strong criticism of the government is the dominant story in the history of the modern newspaper medium in postwar Japan.

NHK too has often been criticized by the right for being too critical of the government and it is staffed by plenty of left-leaning types. Its connection to the government, of course, makes it susceptible (like all national television the world over) to gov efforts to shift its tone.

At April 19, 2005 6:32 AM, Blogger Muninn said...

It is also interesting to note that, unless I'm mistaken, the image the article uses of a Japanese newspaper is from Sankei newspaper, the radical right-wing newspaper with the smallest circulation numbers of all the major newspapers (except perhaps for Akahata, or the "Red Flag" Communist paper).


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