Japan Releases Broadcast Law-Linked Internal Papers

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, In Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, 2021.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications on Tuesday released internal documents showing its exchanges with the prime minister’s office over the interpretation of political impartiality under the broadcasting law.

According to the ministry, the documents are the same in content as the alleged internal papers of the ministry made public by Hiroyuki Konishi of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan last week, which he claimed show how the administration of then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe applied pressure on the ministry over the legal interpretation.

Under its conventional interpretation of the law, the government was to evaluate programs of a broadcaster entirely to determine whether it is politically biased.

The 78-page A4-size internal documents released Tuesday show how the ministry under the Abe administration ended up introducing an additional interpretation in 2016 holding that a single program would be enough to judge political impartiality in some cases.

According to the documents, Abe told then communications minister Sanae Takaichi over the telephone that he thought the conventional interpretation was not right. Also, Yosuke Isozaki, then adviser to Abe, is quoted as telling a ministry executive that “this matter is to be decided by me and the prime minister alone” and that “you’ll be fired.”

Ahead of the ministry’s release of the controversial documents, communications minister Takeaki Matsumoto told a press conference Tuesday that the papers unveiled by Konishi were all confirmed to be administrative documents of the ministry.

He also said, “There are parts where we either cannot confirm the accuracy of the contents or are unsure of the circumstances that led to the creation (of the documents).”

The government had avoided confirming whether the documents are administrative papers, only saying that it would have to closely examine them.