– Perilous times for journalists (Japan Times, Jan 11, 2014):
At least 70 journalists were killed on the job around the world in 2013, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes and defends press freedom. Two-thirds of the journalists died in the Middle East.
Though the total is down slightly from the 74 journalists killed working in 2012, the deaths of 25 other journalists in 2013 are still being investigated.
Like all journalists reporting from dangerous, conflict-ridden areas, those who were killed were aware their safety could be put in jeopardy. Still they strived to report the facts from the Mideast, Pakistan, Somalia, India, Brazil, the Philippines, Mali and Russia, each of which saw multiple deaths of journalists. Their work, along with its meaning and importance, is recorded for posterity on the CPJ site. Their loss is both a loss of life and the loss of the truth of what was happening in their home countries, where most journalists are killed.
Although several Japanese journalist have been killed in the past, that reporters should be in fear for their lives may seem a distant notion here. But that they may fear for their liberty is a notion that came much closer after the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe rammed through the state secrets law on Dec. 6.
Another sad statistic from the CPJ’s annual report concerns the number of journalists who are jailed for what they are reporting. The CPJ report found that 211 journalists were in prison in 30 different countries around the world in 2013. The countries with the worst record of jailing journalists for doing their job are, in order, Turkey, Iran, China, Eritrea, Syria and Vietnam. More might have been imprisoned in Syria if they had lived.
Will Japan start to appear on the CPJ’s annual lists of imprisoned journalists?
Surely Japan will never be a country where journalists need fear for their lives, and Japan may not soon reach China’s 32 or Turkey’s 40 jailed journalists.
However, the impact of the state secrets law means that, very soon, Japanese journalists may end up in jail for just doing their job of finding out what is happening and reporting it. According to the new law, even trying to find out may now be considered a crime.
Journalists must often sacrifice to find out what is vitally important for the public to know, but sacrificing their own liberty would mark an appalling and disruptive shift in Japanese society. Because of the state secrets law, the vital duty of journalists has become more threatened in Japan than ever before. Just look at the other countries with their own state secrets laws and policies.