UN Special Rapporteur criticises Japan's freedom of expression laws

Peaceful Assembly

On 5 June 2016, 40,000 students and citizens gathered near the Diet building to hold a major rally opposing national security legislation, which allows Japan to engage in collective self-defense to help an ally under attack. There were no reports of oppression of the gathering which was largely peaceful. Over 50,000 people gathered on Japan’s southern island of Okinawa to protest the alleged rape and murder connected to the US Marines, in what is now seen as the largest Anti-USA rally in decades. Thousands more simultaneously gathered all across Japan in the cities of Tokyo, Sapporo, and Nagoya in solidarity. The nationwide protest called for the removal of the U.S. military base and for more accountability for the incident. Again, this assembly was largely peaceful and no unwarranted restrictions were put in place.

Expression

In April, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye conducted a week-long mission in Japan. During a post-mission press conference, he expressed deep concerns about the threats to freedom of expression in Japan. Of specific concern is a law that grants government the power to revoke broadcasting licenses on the basis that the broadcaster is too politically biased. Additionally, the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets Act was criticised for its broad scope and potential to obstruct people’s right to information and jail whistle blowers for up to ten years for leaking state secrets. Japan has also recently passed a new anti-hate speech law, which was recently applied to prevent an anti-Korean activists from holding a rally near the premises of a group supporting ethnic Koreans.