Japan’s “politically independent” media

The 9 June edition of the Economist magazine carried a very informative article about the current state of Japan, saying, at the beginning, “The aftermath of the March 11th disasters shows that Japan’s strengths lie outside Tokyo, in its regions”. I don’t think this statement would make sense to those who have had nothing to do with this country or have not been here before. The article includes a map to show the economy of of regions in Japan.

The economic potential of Hokkaido, the northern-most island, is equivalent to that of Ukraine. The tsunami/earthquake/nuclear powerstation-stricken Tohoku is the same with Argentina for its GDP. Click the map and see other areas as well. Message of the Economist’s piece is that the time has come for Japan to make more efforts to decentralise its political and economic activities from Tokyo.

The article talks about regional powers in Japan, good things and bad things. I actually did not have the faintest idea at all that a tiny factory’s stopping production in Tohoku might affect the car productions in Kentucky, USA.

The Economist also discusses the recent and current state of Japan’s politics, saying:

“To many there was no starker demonstration of the out-of-touch arrogance of national politicians than on June 2nd when opponents of Naoto Kan, the prime minister, sought and failed to force him out of office, by way of a no-confidence motion in the lower house. In the disaster area mayors spoke out angrily at the way political gamesmanship was distracting from recovery efforts. “When someone is drowning, what’s important is not who rescues them, but how they are rescued,” complained Hideo Abe, mayor of Higashimatsushima, a damaged port. 

I too was very angry to those national politicians indulged in the “political games manship”. I was (and still am) even angrier to the major media organisations where their political correspondents talked about the leadership ability of the current prime minister. If my memory was correct they already were critical about Mr Kan’s leadership as early as two weeks or so after the disaster. To me it seemed to show their arrogance: even amid people’s hectic efforts in the disaster areas the national press in Tokyo were talking about who should be able to rescue them rather than how they might have been rescued.

There was a general election in England last year while I was there. An English pub owner told me about Britain’s political media, saying, rather disgustingly, “They think they choose MPs, not us.” Yes, I do see English political journalists and commentators make arrogant comments about who should lead Britain just as if they (journalists) have the right to decide things.

Arrogance seems to be the same with Japanese journalists. Perhaps, American journalists are even more so…But there is a fundamental difference between Japanese political media and those in Briitain and US. Japanese media all boast about their “political neutrality” while the British and the American counterparts do not hide their political inclination. So, if you wish to see what is going on in the conservative people’s minds you will go out and buy papers such as the Telegraph and the Times. Do you want to know liberal views you will read the Guardian and the Independent, will you not?

So, you have choice over there. Here in Japan, all the media claim not to be “political” while they all seem to believe it their obligation to criticise the current leader. It does not matter who and which party are leading the government. The government and the prime minister are always bad guys from their “politically independent” point of views. Read any major Japanese daily newspapers and you will find them full of critical pieces about the government with no coverage at all on what the opposition parties are doing and saying.

So, this time all the media (even including NHK, an equivalent to Britain’s BBC) complain aboout “incompetence” of the Prime Minister Kan’s government, letting people feel “anybody would be better than Mr Kan”. Such a childish assumption!

I am angry indeed to the press here as well as some of the national politicians. [11/6/2011]

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One Response to Japan’s “politically independent” media

  1. Joy says:

    Ah, a free and independent press is the first step toward a functioning democracy. You need independent opinion on the events of the day. You need news that is presented as information rather than propaganda – agenda led commentary only enrages those against and consoles those that are for — it does not allow the indivdual to shape his own opinion.

    You are right in saying that in the UK you can buy the paper that supports your political views, whether conservative, liberal, or labour. It is much the same in the US but there are fewer and fewer independent newspapers that are aligned with a political party. Instead in both the US and the UK we have Rupert Murdoch – that Australian owner of everything from The Times (UK) to the Wall street Journal (US), the Fox network and BSkyB here in the UK! His view of the world becomes the ‘information as fact’ that is broadcast in all of his holdings around the world. Rather than provide information, he provides sensationalism.

    Keep the readers and watchers happy by constantly telling them how bad everything is in screaming yellow headlines — as the ordinary man begins to ignore what is actually happening under their noses.


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