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At the end of last month, an evacuation order declared during the 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant power plant meltdown was lifted for residents of a small town in Fukushima Prefecture, the first time an area so close to the site was declared suitable for habitation. Yet, three years after Earthquake Tōhoku killed 15,000 people and triggered the nuclear accident, journalists seeking to investigate the disaster face sustained risks, according to CPJ research. 

To the group of developed democracies, such as Britain and the United States, each with increasingly restrictive attitudes toward press freedom, add Japan, which appears to be on the brink of passing a new state secrets protection law. If passed by the upper house of the Diet today, it would broaden the criteria the government uses to determine which information will be secret. Jake Adelstein, a Tokyo-based reporter who has blogged several times for CPJ, calls it "an ominous new bill" which would "give the government expanded powers to classify nearly anything as a secret and intimidate the press into silence."

New York, December 3, 2013--The Committee to Protect Journalists is gravely concerned by a new state secrets bill before the Japanese parliament, which, if passed, would broaden the government's power to determine which information can be kept secret.

Japan's independent journalism on trial with Tanaka

Journalist Minoru Tanaka is being sued over a piece on Japan's nuclear industry. (Nathalie-Kyoko Stucky)

It doesn't take a baseball bat to silence a reporter in Japan--increasingly the blunt weapon being wielded by corporations, power brokers, and politicians is the court gavel.

In May of this year, a writer for the weekly magazine Shukan Kinyobi was sued by one of Japan's most powerful nuclear industry figures, for a total of 67,000,000 yen (US$858,000). The thrust of the lawsuit is that the term used to describe the plaintiff is libelous. 

Japanese reporter Mika Yamamoto was killed after being caught in gunfire in Aleppo, Syria. (AFP/NHK News)

My colleagues and I were saddened to learn of the death of Mika Yamamoto, a Japan Press video and photo journalist who was killed while covering clashes in Aleppo, Syria, on Monday. The moment was all the more poignant because of the similarities with two other Japanese journalist fatalities: Kenji Nagai of APF News in Burma in 2007 and Hiro Muramoto of Reuters in Thailand in 2010. As with Yamamoto, Nagai and Muramoto were photojournalists covering conflict between anti-government elements and government troops in foreign countries.

Chinese activists are escorted as they disembark from a Japan Coast Guard patrol ship. (Reuters/Kyodo)

It's not often we at CPJ find ourselves calling on other countries to release Chinese journalists from detention. But that's just what happened yesterday. Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV contacted us to say that two of their journalists were among a group of 14 arrested by Japanese authorities over a disputed territory in the East China Sea. For once, we found ourselves in accordance with Chinese authorities, who called for the "unconditional and immediate release" of all 14, according to Reuters

New York, August 16, 2012--Japanese authorities should release two Phoenix TV journalists detained Wednesday while covering Chinese protesters landing on a disputed territory between Japan and China, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. 

MP Ihiro Ozawa addresses a FPAJ press conference. (Michiyoshi Hatakeyama)

After the huge catastrophe that hit Japan this March, the country is in need of a freer media culture. A less restricted media would allow more people access to information at press conferences. In the name of this aim, in April 25, a group of Japanese freelance journalists launched a new organization called the Free Press Association of Japan (FPAJ).

Here is a selection of photos by Japanese freelancer Hiro Ugaya showing the devastation in northeastern Japan caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Photos are copyright Hiro Ugaya and used with permission. View his full Picasa gallery here.

In an interview on the CPJ Blog, Ugaya tells CPJ's Madeline Earp how he covered the catastrophe.

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The Japanese government upped the danger rating for the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station to its highest level, 7, on Tuesday, a month after an earthquake and tsunami devastated the country. It was not yet clear whether the administration or the Tokyo Electric Power Company, which runs the plant, withheld the extent of the risk. But the local media's habitual allegiance to officials who arrange press conferences and companies that buy advertising makes it hard to tell, and freelancers who are eager to probe deeper say their questions have been suppressed.

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Killed in Japan

1 journalist killed since 1992

1 journalist murdered

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Asia

Program Coordinator:
Bob Dietz

bdietz@cpj.org

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