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Politics

Japan flustered by UN human rights concerns

Media freedom, anti-conspiracy bill at center of tensions

The United Nations is concerned with Japan's laws on state secrets and broadcasting, as well as a proposed legislation against criminal conspiracy.

TOKYO - Japan is pushing back against United Nations criticism that its controversial anti-conspiracy bill and other policies infringe on press freedom and individual liberties, calling the characterization unfair and one-sided.

David Kaye, a special rapporteur for the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, issued a report Tuesday on the freedom of speech and expression in Japan. He will explain his findings at a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting this month.

The document claims that Japan's Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets, the so-called secrecy law enacted in 2013, undermines the public's right to know. It also said that the broadcast law regulating public and commercial broadcasters could place unfair constraints on the freedom and independence of media outlets.

The Japanese government objected to the report, claiming it is based on hearsay and does not accurately reflect the situation in Japan. It stressed that the broadcast legislation was drafted with respect to the constitution, and exists to protect the public's welfare.

"We will continue a dialogue so our position is properly understood," Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda said Wednesday. "We will thoroughly explain our stance at the U.N. Human Rights Council meeting."

A hotly contested anti-conspiracy bill, which would make it a crime to plan terror attacks and other crimes, has also come under attack. "The proposed bill, in its current form and in combination with other legislation, may affect the exercise of the right to privacy as well as other fundamental public freedoms," Joseph Cannataci, another special rapporteur, wrote in an open letter to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The letter "did not take into account the Japanese government's explanation, and is one-sided, extremely unbalanced, and inappropriate," Abe said Monday.

The Japanese Foreign Ministry also hit back. "A special rapporteur of the Human Rights Council is an individual expert independent from the United Nations and his/her assertions do not necessarily reflect the consensus view of the United Nations," it stressed in a statement.

In 2015, a different special rapporteur claimed that 13% of Japan's schoolgirls had dated men for money. Tokyo requested that she retract the statement, which she later did, acknowledging there was no recent data to corroborate the claim. More recently, in May, the U.N. Committee against Torture called on Japan and South Korea to renegotiate a 2015 deal on the issue of wartime comfort women. Tokyo objected.

But while some Japanese officials say that U.N. envoys are prioritizing other countries' interests, the U.N. has also sided with Japan on a number of issues. In March 2016, then-Special Rapporteur Marzuki Darusman urged the global community to prosecute North Korea's top leadership for the abduction of Japanese nationals.

"From professors to lawyers, these experts come from a variety of backgrounds, and their reports strongly reflect their personal thoughts and perspectives," said former U.N. Under-Secretary-General Yasushi Akashi.

"It's unlikely that Japan is being singled out," Akashi said. "The government needs to respond calmly to the rapporteurs' claims, and it is important to not overreact."

(Nikkei)

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