Considering Japanese politics from journalistic viewpoint By Mr. Yoshisuke Yasuo, guest editorial writer, Kyodo News ジャーナリズムを通して現代政治を考察する  ―共同通信


  “The Nagasaki Shipping List and Advertiser,” inaugurated in 1861, was not only the first English-language newspaper in Japan but was the first modern newspaper of any language in the country. Since then, journalism has percolated into daily life and greatly influenced the nation and society along with the spread of TV and the Internet. What is the role to be played by journalism?  How should it be from now on? Hakumon Herald invited Mr. Yoshisuke Yasuo to write on the question in the light of today’s political situation in Japan.




Journalism at Crossroads / 今、岐路に立つジャーナリズム

What is journalism? There may be different perceptions about it. I think that journalism is required to provide the people with truths, offer materials for political judgment during election campaigns, monitor power and stand by citizens, the weak in particular, based on the principles of popuar sovereignty and democracy. I hold that the media, especially the newspaper, should play the role of defending democracy all the more because it has advanced with democratic society. Another important role of journalism is to see day-to-day news in the context of history and supply the readers with the significance of living today in history. War is of particular importance in this regard. During the prewar years, newspapers in Japan arrayed themselves in support of World War II. With that in mind, I think journalism should oppose any moves that may lead to war. Democracy and citizens are always the casualties of war.




  In that sense, I might say that journalism stands at a crossroads now. Stirring nationalism and glorifying the wars waged by Japan in the past are beginning to be the order of the day. Some of the media that do not concede the follies of war and attempt to cover up the truth are becoming rampant. They seem to be seizing on the idea because it sells well amid the country’s conservative swing. But I think such media will meet their doom someday.





Abe administration cherishes nationalistic idea /国家主義的思想抱く安倍政権

The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pressing ahead with its policy to advocate an exercise of Japan’s right of collective self-defense and revise the Constitution. This, I think, does not go along with what the integrity of journalism is meant for. Why is his administration in favor of approving an exercise of the right? Isn’t it essentially because it cherishes a nationalistic idea that makes little of democracy? The administration may accomplish its aim by forming a council solely made up of affirmative scholars and ex-bureaucrats and by installing a similar person in the post of Director-General of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau. That would inevitably lead this nation to break down from within. To defy such consequence and bulldoze its cause is no more than a runaway. Isn’t it the role of journalism to take a firm stand and dissuade such move? Unfortunately, however, Japanese newspapers are currently divided in their opinion. It looks as if the Abe administration is intent on misleading the nation by capitalizing on the ongoing trend of the media.




If the incumbent office holder should interpret the Constitution as he or she wishes, it would lose its meaning as a nation’s fundamental law. Moreover, the problem here is the view of the Constitution held by Abe and some members of his Liberal Democratic Party. While the Constitution should essentially bind the state, they seem to think that it should control the nation. That is obvious from LDP’s draft of Constitutional revisions. The document is evidently devoid of the essential elements of the Constitution: the sovereignty of the people and fundamental human rights. Moreover, it smacks of their intention to amend war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution, create a defense force and turn Japan into a country that may tolerate a war.




Underlying the LDP draft is a nationalistic idea that denies the absolute essentials of the Constitution. I can’t help but feel that they are trying to bring this nation back to prewar days. They might undermine the freedom of thought and creed, the freedom of assembly and association, and the freedom of the press. That possibility is implied in the recently enacted Specified State Secrets Protection Law, which reminds me of the Maintenance of Public Order Law before the war. True freedom might be suppressed because what are state secrets is kept secret.





Mr. Yoshisuke Yasuo, guest editorial writer, Kyodo News
Mr. Yoshisuke Yasuo, guest editorial writer, Kyodo News

Rise up to defend democracy /民主主義を守るため立ち上がれ

Persons in authority might be able to puppeteer citizens as they wish. The press might be obliged to wither. What is even worse, the freedom of the press might practically be brushed aside. The media might become something like a government organ. Such situation can lead to a reign of terror like the Nazis in Germany before WWII. That, one might say, is a denial of democracy and elimination of journalism. Some people argue to the contrary. However, listening to what the prime minister says, I cannot trust him. There are discrepancies between what he says and what he actually does. We have seen that power is apt to deceive, tell a lie and become corrupt. One quintessential example is the speech Abe made in his presentation inviting the 2020 Olympic Games to Tokyo. He concealed the truth about the Fukushima nuclear power plants from international society by declaring that they are “under control.” His intention to control the media is clear from the appointment of Katsuto Momii as new president of NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation), the country’s public broadcasting organization.




  Now is the time when journalism should rise up to protect the society where democracy based on constitutionalism, and the fundamental human rights and freedom are valued and respected. I really feel that a vital question is now being asked of journalism in Japan.




Mr. Yasuo’s profile

Born in Yamaguchi Prefecture in 1947, he joined Kyodo News upon graduating from the Department of Sociology, the Faculty of Letters, of Chuo University in 1970. After serving a stint as city news reporter in Osaka and Tokyo, he was posted as correspondent in Seoul in 1984 and in Bangkok in 1992. He was named a member of the editorial committee and an editorial writer in 2004, and has been a guest editorial writer since 2007.