Hi Blog. Here we have GOJ agencies working to stem malicious rumors from proliferating online, including those targeting NJ. Good. It’s also presented (by a news blog) as a debate between those who feel they have a right to know (and feel betrayed by the official media as an information source) and those who feel they can say anything they like about anybody thanks to freedom of speech. It’s a fine line, to be sure, but I’m glad to see somebody official trying to tackle (or, rather, at least thinking about tackling) the issue of hate speech against NJ. But without clear legal guidelines about what constitutes “hate speech” (or for that matter, “immoral information”) in Japan, those who don’t trust the government will no doubt foresee a wave of official censorship. Arudou Debito
Japanese Government Targets “Harmful Rumors”
Shingetsu News Agency 2011.04.13, courtesy MS
By Makiko Segawa
SNA (Tokyo) — The Japanese government has now entered into the business of deciding what citizens may or may not talk about in public.
A new project team has been created by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication, the National Police Agency, and METI to combat “rumors” deemed harmful to Japanese security in the wake of the March 11 disaster.
Specifically, these government organizations asserted in a press release that the damage caused by earthquakes and by the nuclear accident are being magnified by irresponsible rumors, and that the government must take steps against this trend for the sake of the public good.
Specifically, the project team is sending “letters of request” to such organizations as telephone companies, internet providers, cable television stations, and others, demanding that they “take adequate measures based on the guidelines in response to illegal information.”
The measures envisioned seem to relate primarily to erasing any information from internet sites written by members of the general public that the authorities deem to be harmful to public order and morality. People may also receive warnings.
When the SNA asked the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication to provide concrete examples of how the government tracked down “immoral” information on the internet, the official in charge of the telecommunications bureau said, “We have not carried out any enforcement actions yet. I cannot explain in detail how we are operating since the roles are partly divided according to the ministries involved.”
“What we, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication, are doing,” the official added, “is to urge net providers such as NTT and KDDI to follow our guidelines.”
The Telecom Services Association reveals that the following requests have thus far come from the government:
March 17: Erase descriptions of the earthquake as a man-made event
March 24: Erase descriptions about the manufacturers of the troubled nuclear reactors
March 28: Erase claim that the earthquake was caused by foreign terrorism
April 1: Eliminate the pictures of dead bodies posted on blogs
The Telecom Services Association complied with some of the government requests.
Eri Watanabe, a member of FoE Japan, an international NGO dealing with environmental issues, fears that the government’s strategy is a first step to “justify censorship.”
“If the government had conveyed the correct information from the beginning,” she asserts, “then they would have headed off the spread of rumors. The media and the government have not been properly explaining the meaning of radiation level numbers.”
Kazumi Asano, a Tokyo-based blogger, exclaimed, “They are just afraid of people exposing their close connection with TEPCO!”
Ms. Asano claims that she knew in advance that the severity of the nuclear accident would be raised to a 7 because she heard it from friends who work as TEPCO engineers.
“It is the blogs that are revealing the facts to the public,” she contends.
“The government cannot track down all of us and eliminate the people’s freedom of expression!”
Makiko Segawa is a staff writer at the Shingetsu News Agency.