Female journalists in Japan join forces to fight sexual harassment

Yoshiko Hayashi, right, a freelancer who formerly worked at the mass-circulation Asahi Shimbun, said it was now ‘the time to eradicate sexual harassment and any other human rights infringement.’ (AFP)
Updated 15 May 2018

Female journalists in Japan join forces to fight sexual harassment

  • “Many women in journalism felt it difficult to raise their voice out of embarrassment and fears that it would destroy the relationship with their contacts”
  • Shinzo Abe has made increasing female participation in the workforce a key plank of his economic policies, as Japan struggles with a labor shortage

TOKYO: Female journalists in Japan said Tuesday they were teaming up to fight sexual harassment in the media, believed to be widespread in a country where the #MeToo movement has been slow to take off.
A total of 86 women journalists have come together to form the Women in Media Network Japan (WiMN) to expose harassment and abuse, said Yoshiko Hayashi, a freelancer who formerly worked at the mass-circulation Asahi Shimbun.
“Unfortunately, discrimination against women and sexual harassment still exist among the people and entities we cover,” she said, reading a statement from the group on its establishment.
“Many women in journalism felt it difficult to raise their voice out of embarrassment and fears that it would destroy the relationship with their contacts,” she added.
“We were the people whose voices were unheard.”
The issue hit the headlines recently after the finance ministry admitted its top bureaucrat harassed a female reporter in an incident believed to be the tip of iceberg.
The reporter, with Japan’s TV Asahi, blew the whistle and Hayashi said the group had been encouraged by her refusal to suffer in silence.
“We are resolved that now is the time to eradicate sexual harassment and any other human rights infringement,” Hayashi said.
The ministry came under fire for its handling of the allegations against Junichi Fukuda, who stepped down over the reporter’s claim but continues to deny wrongdoing.
His retirement package was eventually reduced as a punishment, but when reports of Fukuda’s alleged misconduct first emerged in a weekly magazine, Finance Minister Taro Aso appeared to dismiss them, saying he had discussed the issue with his top bureaucrat and had no plans to investigate.
An uproar over the claims ensued, and the ministry was forced to backtrack, though it earned additional criticism for calling on affected women to come forward to its lawyers.
TV Asahi, one of the nation’s major networks, publicly acknowledged one of its reporters was the victim and that her boss had failed to act when she initially complained about the harassment.
Aso has voiced his concern over “Fukuda’s human rights” in the midst of accusations and said there is no such criminal charge as sexual harassment.
He has also said that the bureaucrat fell victim to a “honey trap” by the female reporter though he later retracted the remark.
The scandal and the ministry’s perceived mishandling of the allegations have provoked a public outcry leading some to suggest the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment was finally impacting Japan.
It has also provided an additional headache for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose government is already under fire over two cronyism scandals, one of which involves the scrubbing of documents by the finance ministry.
Abe has made increasing female participation in the workforce a key plank of his economic policies, as Japan struggles with a labor shortage.


Australian papers censor front pages in press freedom campaign

Updated 21 October 2019

Australian papers censor front pages in press freedom campaign

SYDNEY: Newspapers across Australia ran heavily redacted front pages on Monday in protest against government secrecy and a crackdown on press freedom, a rare show of unity in a fractious media landscape.
National and regional mastheads including The Australian, The Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Financial Review hit newsstands Monday with most of their front-page news stories blacked out.
Advertisements have also been rolled out across the country’s television networks, asking viewers to consider the question: “When the government hides the truth from you, what are they covering up?“
The campaign by the Right to Know coalition was sparked by federal police raids on the national broadcaster ABC and a News Corp. journalist’s home earlier this year over two stories that had proved embarrassing for the government.
It centers on six demands, including exemptions for journalists from strict national security laws that have created a complex web of provisions critics say too easily ensnare reporters doing their jobs.
“The culture of secrecy that has descended through these legal provisions restricts every Australian’s right to know and goes well beyond the original intent of national security,” Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance union head Paul Murphy said.
“The police raids on the home of News Corp. journalist Annika Smethurst and the headquarters of the ABC in Sydney were direct attacks on media freedom in Australia but they are just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.
Three journalists are facing possible criminal charges in the wake of the raids — Smethurst for revealing the government was considering plans to spy on Australians — and two ABC reporters for exposing alleged war crimes by Australian special forces in Afghanistan.
The media groups are also calling for enhanced protections for public sector whistleblowers — who have also faced charges for leaking to the press — as well as an improved freedom of information regime and defamation law reform.
Australia’s defamation laws are notoriously complex and among the strictest in the world.
And unlike most liberal democracies, Australia does not have a bill of rights or constitutionally enshrined protections for freedom of speech.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his government would “always believe in the freedom of the press,” but he also insisted that journalists were not above the law.
“The rule of law has to be applied evenly and fairly in protection of our broader freedoms, and so I don’t think anyone is, I hope, looking for a leave pass on any of those things,” he told reporters during an official visit to Jakarta.
A press freedom inquiry is due to report its findings to parliament next year.