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Japanese Academics’ Statement on UN Special Rapporteur David Kaye’s “Preliminary Report”


May 2, 2017
Japanese Academics’ Statement on UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and
Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression David Kaye’s April
19, 2016 “Preliminary Report on the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression in
In the Introduction to his Preliminary Report-announced in Tokyo on April
19,2016, after just a week-long visit to Japan-American Professor David Kaye used
surprisingly strong words to describe the current situation of freedom of opinion and
expression in Japan: “Yet across a range of areas, I learned of deep and genuine concern
that trends are moving sharply and alarmingly in the wrong direction.” In point of fact,
Professor Kaye’s alarmist language is sharply at odds with the actual situation in Japan,
where freedom of expression is fully guaranteed by law and custom and fully enjoyed
and practiced on a daily basis throughout all sectors of Japanese society.
We think Professor Kaye may be operating under the misconception common
among American university-based political activists that Prime Minister ABE Shinzo is
a nationalist. In fact, Prime Minister Abe is a patriot, and not a nationalist. From an
international perspective, it is very difficult to find any country more nationalistic than
the United States. We therefore think that Prof. Kaye’s sense of alarm should be
directed towards his home country rather than Japan. For example, Prime Minister Abe
is much less nationalistic than the former president, Barack Obama, to say nothing of
the current President Donald Trump.
On April 20, 2016, just one day after Professor Kaye issued his Preliminary
Report, the Paris-based NGO Reporters without Borders (RWB) announced their
annual World Press Freedom Index for 2016. According to this index, Japan was ranked
No. 72 in press freedom among 180 countries around the world. To our great disbelief,
Japan was ranked beneath Tanzania, which came in at No. 71. Japan’s ranking by RWB
plummeted since 2013 following the inauguration of the Abe administration in
December 2012. Despite being ranked No. 11 in 2010, Japan was ranked No. 53 in 2013,
No. 59 in 2014, and No. 61 in 2015. RWB’s views are clearly based on prejudice against
the Abe administration. We are unable to arrive at any other conclusion, as the objective
status of freedom of opinion and expression in Japan has been basically unchanged
since Abe’s election to the office of prime minister.
RWB’s rankings fluctuate wildly despite continuity of circumstance, making
these rankings unreliable, and useful for little more than the kind of political
maneuvering much favored by American academics. RWB was established in Paris in
1985, and seems to lack the experience and sophistication needed to lend credibility to
their reports. A narrow’minded, short-sighted play for political gain seems to be much
more apropos in explaining the RWB rankings than is any grounding in objective fact.
Fortunately, a much more reliable world freedom ranking is available.
According to the “Freedom in the World 2017″ report produced by the international
NGO Freedom House in January 2017, Japan is ranked No. 12-higher than Germany
(16), the UK (17), France (27), the US (28), and Italy (29). Freedom House was
established in Washington, DC, in 1941, making it more than twice as established as
RWB. Accordingly, Freedom House’s world rankings are stable and evenhanded, in
stark contrast to the oscillations and biases painfully evident in the RWB reports.
On May 12, 2016, just a few weeks after the release of his Preliminary
Report in Tokyo, Professor Kaye and University of Connecticut Professor Alexis Dudden
held a two’person open dialogue titled “Threats to Freedom of Speech in Japan” at the
University of California, Irvine. The event was hosted by the Journal ofAsian Studies
(JAS), which is published by the Association for Asian Studies (AAS). Professor Dudden
is notorious as a lifelong Japan basher with deep animus towards Prime Minister Abe.
In May 2015, Professor Dudden famously used the AAS as her platform for mounting
yet another attack on Prime Minister Abe. Professor Kaye thus seems to be in complete
alignment with two of the most prominent anti’Japan extremists in the world, RWB
and Professor Dudden. This trio is clearly working in tandem to attack Japan: UN
Rapporteur Kaye’s Preliminary Report, the announcement of RWB’s ranking in 2016,
and the debriefing summit between Professors Kaye and Dudden all happened within
less than a month of each other, between April 19 and May 12 in 2016.
From April 21 through April 29, 2016, the Asahi Shimbun, considered by
many to be the most “liberal” daily newspaper in Japan, published interviews with
seven newscasters representing every major Japanese TV broadcasting network. In
these interviews, not one newscaster replied that he or she had ever experienced
external pressure to change his or her reporting or views. Not one of the seven major
newscasters was anxious about the current situation of freedom of opinion and
expression in Japan. These interviews are so diametrically inconsistent with Professor
Kaye’s report as to introduce a dilemma: either the liberal Asahis reporting is incorrect,
or Professor Kaye’s rapporteur work is.
According to the independent New York’based NPO Committee to Protect
Journalists (CPJ), 802 journalists have been murdered since 1992, 259 journalists were
imprisoned in 2016, and 452 journalists have been forced into exile since 2010. In Japan,
two reporters with the Nishinomiya Branch of the Asahi Shimbun were killed in May,
1987. But this was a tragic and extremely isolated anomaly. Incidents of violence or
intimidation against journalists in Japan are almost universally unheard of.
Completely contrary to Professor Kaye’s Preliminary Report, we are very proud that
Japan’s current situation of freedom of speech remains at the very top level, making
Japan a world beacon of free expression and investigation.
We in the free and democratic world are now facing great challenges from big
countries lacking freedom of opinion and expression, such as Russia and the People’s
Republic of China. Moreover, more and more countries and regions, such as Turkey,
Poland, Hungary, Venezuela, and Hong Kong, are also rapidly losing their freedoms of
expression, making the protection of free speech the most important challenge
confronting those fortunate enough to live in havens of unfettered reporting.
In a January 28, 2016 Wall Street Journal essay titled “Democracy Takes a
Global Hit,” Freedom House president and Georgetown human rights professor Mark
Lagon wrote, “Every year since 2006 more democracies have experienced erosion in
political rights and civil liberties. [...] Authoritarian states have ratcheted up
international repression, and the most powerful dictatorships-China, Russia, Iran,
Saudi Arabia – have extended their antidemocratic influence abroad.”
Shutting his eyes to these threats, however, Professor Kaye, after becoming
UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression in August of
2014, selected three countries as his research objectives: Tajikistan, Japan, and Turkey.
Had Professor Kaye any comprehensive understanding of human rights, he would not
have selected Japan as one of his research targets. As Professor Lagon pointed out,
China, Russia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia would have presented Professor Kaye with
actual substantive threats to free expression waiting to be brought out into the light.
Indeed, these countries are not content to restrict the freedoms of their own
people, but are actively exporting anti-democratic repression throughout the world. For
example, the eight-page China Watch is now distributed monthly to overseas readers as
an insert in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the 1%11 Street Journal, the
Daily Telegraph, the Financial Times, the International Tribune, Le Figaro, and the
three major media outlets in Australia, including the Sydney Morning Herald China
Watch is published by the Beijing-headquartered China Daily, which is China’s national
English-language daily newspaper also boasting the largest circulation. The contents of
China Watch are considered to be largely controlled by the Chinese government. We are
therefore very much afraid that these Western media are assisting the Chinese
government’s propaganda efforts in exporting its sanitized and distended version of
events. As a consequence, China-which guarantees no freedom of speech at
all—-directly exports its repressed “journalism” to people in the free and democratic
world through the above-listed prominent Western media outlets. We harbor grave
doubts about the discernment and ethics of Western newspapers acting as stage and
accomplice for the dissemination of Chinese propaganda abroad.
The post of UN Special Rapporteur was designed to address precisely this
kind of pressing problem. Professor Kaye’s Preliminary Report, however, was made
based on his interviews with a limited number of journalists when he visited Japan for
just one week. The choice of journalists lacks balance, and was made according to
political considerations and expediencies. As a result, the academic analysis in his
preliminary report is sorely lacking.
As it stands now, we are seriously concerned that UN Rapporteur Professor
Kaye’s Report might become a second Coomaraswamy Report, which was submitted to
the UN Commission on Human Rights in 1994. The Coomaraswamy Report is replete
with many grave errors of fact. And yet, because of the Report’s association with the
United Nations, these grave errors have come into currency throughout the world. As a
result, the dignity of Japan and the Japanese public in the international community has
been immensely damaged for more than two decades. We request that the United
Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) withdraw the Coomaraswamy Report and
appoint a new UN Special Rapporteur on the comfort women issue in order to draft a
new report free from factual error.
We request that UN Special Rapporteur Professor David Kaye submit a very
fair and impartial final report on freedom of opinion and expression in Japan, based
squarely upon objective facts, at the coming UN Human Rights Council meeting in
Geneva in June 2017.
46 Signers of the Statement
(10 Initiators)
-FUJIOKA Nobukatsu; Visiting Professor, Takushoku University
-ICHIMURA Shinichi; Professor Emeritus, Kyoto University
-ITO Takashi; Professor Emeritus, University of Tokyo
-KOBORI Keiichiro; Professor Emeritus, University of Tokyo
-NISHIO Kanji; Professor Emeritus, University of Electro-Communications
-SHIMADA Haruo; Professor Emeritus, Keio University
-TANAKA Hidemichi; Professor Emeritus, Tohoku University
-WATANABE Shoichi; Professor Emeritus, Sophia University (passed away on April 17)
-WATANABE Toshio, Professor Emeritus, Tokyo Institute of Technology
-YAMASHITA Eiji; Professor Emeritus, Osaka City University
(in alphabetical order)
(36 Supporters)
-AOYAGI Takehiko; Professor Emeritus, International University of Japan
-ARAI Koichiro; Professor, Aichi Gakuin University
-HARASatoshi; Professor, Kyoto University of Foreign Studies
-HARADA Hiroo; Professor, Senshu University
-HIGUCHI, Ryuichi; Professor Emeritus, Meiji Gakuin University
-HIGUCHI Tsuneharu; Professor, Tokiwa University
-INAMURA Kobo; Former Professor, Chuo University
-ISHIGAKI Yasuji; Former Professor, Tokai University
-ISOMAE Shuji; Professor, Meijo University
-ITO Kenichi; Chairman, Japan Forum on International Relations (Former Professor,
Aoyama Gakuin University)
-KAWAKUBO Tsuyoshi; Associate Professor, Reitaku University
-KINMONTH, Earl; Professor Emeritus, Taisho University
-KITAMURAYoshikazu; Professor Emeritus, Aichi University of Education
-KOYAMA Tsunemi; Professor Emeritus, Ohtsuki City College
-KUNO Jun; Lecturer, Meijo University
-MABUCHI Mutsuo; Former Professor, National Defense Academy of Japan
-MERA Koichi; Former Professor, University of Southern California
-MOMOCHI Akira; Professor Emeritus, Nippon University
-NAKAMURA Hiroshi; Professor Emeritus, National Defense Medical College
-NAKAYAMA Osamu; President, Reitaku University
-NISHIDATE Kazume; Professor, Iwate University
-NISHIMURAYozo; Professor, Ritsumeikan University
-NITTA Hitoshi; Professor, Kogakkan Univeristy
-NUKAYA Hideki; Professor, Hiroshima University of Economics
-OGAWA Rei; Professor, Nippon Medical School
-ORITA Kunio; Lecturer, Toyo Gakuen University (Retired General ofAir Self Defense
Forces of Japan)
-SEOKA Yoshihiko, Professor Emeritus, Osaka City University
-SHINOHARA Toshio; Professor, Kokushikan University
-SOEJIMA Toyojiro; Former Professor, Kinki University
-SUGIHARA Seishiroh; Former Professor, Josai University
-SUZUKI Tomohiro; Professor, Shinshu University
-TAKAHASHI Shiro; Special Professor, Meisei University
-TEl Taikin; Professor Emeritus, Tokyo Metropolitan University
-TOMITAYo; Professor, Queen’s University Belfast, UK
-USHIO Masato; Lecturer, Tokai University
-YOSHIDA Yorikatsu; Professor, Takushoku University
Gn alphabetical order)