Reporters Without Borders on Discrimination Against Freelance Journalists in Japan  国境なき記者団、日本におけるフリーランス・ジャーナリストに対する差別的対応を批判


December 31, 2012

Reporters Without Borders on Discrimination Against Freelance Journalists in Japan  国境なき記者団、日本におけるフリーランス・ジャーナリストに対する差別的対応を批判
Reporters Without Borders on Discrimination Against Freelance Journalists in Japan  国境なき記者団、日本におけるフリーランス・ジャーナリストに対する差別的対応を批判

Volume 10 | Issue 54 | Number 119

Article ID 4727

Between 2012 and 2014 we posted a number of articles on contemporary affairs without giving them volume and issue numbers or dates. Often the date can be determined from internal evidence in the article, but sometimes not. We have decided retrospectively to list all of them as Volume 10, Issue 54 with a date of 2012 with the understanding that all were published between 2012 and 2014.


Kisha (reporter) Clubs” are a much-discussed and controversial part of Japan’s media environment. Laurie Anne Freeman’s Closing the Shop: Information Cartels and Japan’s Mass Media argues that these groups, which organize press access to officials in government, police and other areas of Japanese public life, limit contact to a core of “approved” journalists from Japan’s big media organs, effectively cutting off freelancers and foreign journalists and freezing out anyone deemed too critical. Since the March 11, 2011 disasters, several of Japan’s major newspapers, notably the Mainichi and Tokyo Shimbun, have provided critical reportage on TEPCO and government silences and irresponsibility. Freelancers, as outlined in a May 23 press release from Reporters Without Borders, however, have been denied adequate access and another potential avenue for critical examination of the government and TEPCO response to the nuclear disaster has been cut off. The Paris-based international organization is dedicated to defend freedom of the press, journalists and netizens world wide.


Asia-Pacific Journal coordinator David McNeill reports that the first busload of journalists able to tour the Fukushima Daiichi site in November 2011 included only one representative of the foreign press. After protests, foreign journalists were given 4 of 38 places in a second tour held in January/February 2012. It was only after CNN, BBC and Foreign Press in Japan representatives argued that the release of radiation from Fukushima Daiichi was an issue of international importance and that more openness was necessary that a tour for 18 foreign reporters was organized for early March.


Foreign reporters also describe strict controls over photography through the entire process, concerns that have been echoed by Japanese freelancers. Independent reporter Hatakeyama Michiyoshi has noted that only two freelancers were able to join the May 26 opening of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to the press. They were, moreover, the only participants barred from bringing cameras inside the plant. The pair were even barred from receiving photos taken by representatives of Japan’s big media companies.


May 23 Reporters Without Borders Press Release


Freelance journalists face discrimination on Fukushima plant visit


Reporters Without Borders denounces the discriminatory measures taken by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and the Japanese government against freelance journalists.Only two Japanese freelances will be included among 40 accredited to the third media visit on 26 May to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, badly damaged by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.


Although some photographers and camera operators will be present, neither of the two freelances will be allowed to use still cameras or video equipment.


One of them, Hatakeyama Michiyoshi, told Reporters Without Borders that a quota of four video journalists and four photographers had been set for the visit but the two who were not affiliated to news organizations would not be allowed to take any equipment.


“Such overt discrimination is a hidden form of censorship and is unacceptable,” Reporters Without Borders said.


“A year after the nuclear accident, the authorities and TEPCO are still maintaining excessive control over information about the plant and the human and environmental impact of the meltdown of its reactors.


“None of the arguments presented by government officials is valid. The right of access to information, which is meant to be guaranteed by clause 21 of the constitution, applies to all those who work in the media and to citizen journalists, not a select few.


 “It is understandable that, for logistical reasons, restrictions should apply to visits but they should not be biased against freelance or foreign journalists. We urge the government to halt such discriminatory restrictions and to allow more freelance journalists to take part in the visit on 26 May.


“For their part, the two freelances who have been accredited should be allowed to take photo equipment.”


In a telephone conversation with Reporters Without Borders yesterday, the MP Sonoda Yasuhiro, parliamentary secretary at the cabinet office, put forward several arguments to support the ban on journalists taking photo and video equipment.


Referring at first to a lack of space, despite the fact that the journalists would be using two buses specially chartered for the visit, he then indicated the problem was one of time. He said photo and video equipment would have to be protected from the radiation present at the site and too large a quantity of apparatus would drastically lengthen the time needed to prepare for the visit.


The freelance Hatakeyama explained that, during the visit, the journalists would be equipped with protective suits allowing them to spend 10 minutes at a distance of 70 to 80 metres from the building housing reactor number 4.


It was not the first time TEPCO and the Japanese government had taken discriminatory action against the media. During the second media visit to the site in February this year, for foreign journalists not included in the first visit, organizers insisted on checking video images before they were broadcast.


Faced with objections by members of the Foreign Press Club, the Foreign Press Center and the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, the requirement was withdrawn.


A year after the nuclear disaster, restrictions on freelance journalists remain stricter than those that apply to journalists affiliated with a news organization. The foreign media are still largely under-represented.


Japan is ranked 22nd of 179 countries in the 2011-2012 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders.


With contribution of Makiko Segawa



フリーランス 福島第一訪問で差別に直面








参加予定のフリーランスライター 畠山理仁は「国境なき記者団」との対談で、代表カメラによるムービー4台、スチール4台の撮影が許可されていることを指摘。しかし、報道機関に加盟していない同フリーランスに関しては、如何なるカメラ機材も持ち込んではならないと条件付けられた事実を語った。


























国境なき記者団が毎年調査している「世界報道自由レベル インデックス」の2011-2012年版で、日本は179カ国中、22位だ。


Contribution by 瀬川牧子



Asia-Pacific Journal articles on related subjects:


Makiko Segawa, After The Media Has Gone: Fukushima, Suicide and the Legacy of 3.11


Peter Hayes, Global Perspectives on Nuclear Safety and Security After 3-11


Paul Jobin, Fukushima One Year On: Nuclear workers and citizens at risk

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Volume 10 | Issue 54 | Number 119

Article ID 4727

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The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus is a peer-reviewed publication, providing critical analysis of the forces shaping the Asia-Pacific and the world.

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