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Abe Regime Makes Direct Attacks on Press Freedom

SNA (Tokyo) — The following stories were reported recently by the Shingetsu News Agency.

Rolling Coverage: Press Freedom

—Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga is incensed by aggressive questions from Tokyo Shinbun reporter Isoko Mochizuki and has requested the Kantei press club to crack down on her ability to ask questions at press conferences.

—A different Japanese government would be annoyed by Mochizuki, but their response would be to shrug and understand that it goes along with being a democracy. The Abe regime is truly pernicious. They really do want everyone to bow to their power, and don’t believe in democracy.

—On DHC Television, Kent Gilbert argues that it was criticism from himself and others that it was “anti-Japan” which changed the editorial line of the Japan Times. The rightwing continues to take victory laps over the issue.

—Petition launched calling for reporters like Tokyo Shinbun’s Isoko Mochizuki to continue to be able to ask questions at Cabinet Office press conferences. Abe government’s hostility to criticism now intruding on basic press rights.

—Japan Federation of Newspaper Workers’ Unions issues statement condemning the Prime Minister’s Office for its attempt to silence Tokyo Shinbun reporter Isoko Mochizuki. They call for fairly conducted press conferences.

—Journalist Kosuke Tsuneoka ordered to surrender his passport by the Abe government for the crime of attempting to travel to Yemen to report on the civil war. The Abe regime becoming increasingly heavy-handed toward journalists who annoy or inconvenience them.

—Japan Communist Party leader Kazuo Shii speaks out on the Isoko Mochizuki case: “Restricting questions from reporters at the Prime Minister’s Residence tramples upon freedom of the press and freedom of expression, and must never be permitted.”

Politics

—The fiasco of the Japan Investment Corporation ought to have led to the resignation of METI Minister Hiroshige Seko for his sheer incompetence. Of course, Seko is protected because his “core competence” has always been his political loyalty to Shinzo Abe.

—Labor Ministry admits that it has known that its wage labor data has been faulty since 2006, but failed to take corrective action.

—Remember that great success of Abenomics, that real worker wages were rising throughout 2018? Oops, sorry, it was a lie. Labor Minister Takumi Nemoto admits in the Diet that the government data was flawed and worker wages were actually declining, not rising.

—Seiko Hashimoto is reportedly also mulling a run as Hokkaido governor, creating the prospect that there will be two ruling party candidates in the race and presumably helping the chances of the yet-to-be-identified opposition candidate.

—Tomohiro Ishikawa speaks publicly of his wish to become the united progressive candidate for Hokkaido governor. There are still many skeptics who worry his past guilty verdict will play against him, but he’s trying to make his political comeback.

—Seiko Hashimoto pulls back from running for Hokkaido governor, meaning that the conservatives will likely avoid a split. Naomichi Suzuki seems to have a clear path to run as the conservative standard-bearer.

—Tomohiro Ishikawa looks increasingly likely to become the united progressive candidate for Hokkaido Governor. Despite concerns about backing a candidate who was convicted of a crime (even if it was likely bogus), there seems to be no other major option available.

—Tomohiro Ishikawa declares his candidacy for the post of Governor of Hokkaido as the united candidate of the progressive parties. He will face outgoing Yubari Mayor Naomichi Suzuki, who will represent the conservative forces. This is a major local political race.

—Liberal Party’s Taro Yamamoto makes comments in the Diet suggesting that, not surprisingly, he supports the progressive policy agenda of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, much more than the centrist agenda of the Democratic Party For the People… which he is apparently about to join.

—Nippon Kaigi criticizes Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for deciding to declare the new Imperial Era name on April 1, one month ahead of Emperor Akihito’s abdication. They denounce it as “unprecedented” and are unmoved by any notion that times have changed.

—Hideaki Omura elected to a third term as Governor of Aichi Prefecture, defeating his Japan Communist Party-backed challenger. We are disappointed that the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan remains very conventional in its gubernatorial and mayoral election strategies. Why not support truly progressive candidates and stop making common cause with the Liberal Democratic Party just because an incumbent candidate is highly likely to win?

—Mainichi Shinbun poll on party proportional representation vote for House of Councillors: 35% planning to vote Liberal Democratic Party and 14% planning to vote Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan. According to this poll, the centrist Democratic Party For the People in very deep trouble, with only 1% of the public planning to vote for them.

—Every Vote Counts: Futoshi Toba reelected to a third term as Mayor of Rikuzentakata City. His margin of victory? 5 votes. Worth mentioning that Futoshi Toba was first elected Mayor of Rikuzentakata City in February 2011. One month later a giant tsunami destroyed the city, so his whole period in office has been about disaster reconstruction.

—Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso ventures that the reason Japan is now facing serious demographic problems is that Japanese women aren’t having enough babies.

—The fact the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is politically unable to fire the national disgrace that is Taro Aso is also serving to protect other troubled ministers like Labor Minister Takumi Nemoto. After all, how can they be fired when Aso does much worse and remains in place?

—With Shinji Tarutoko’s resignation from the House of Representatives, Sumio Mabuchi makes his return to the Diet, as he was the Kinki Block proportional representation candidate who had just missed election in the October 2017 election.

—Future historians will never be able to write entirely accurate histories of Japan, because government ministries, and the courts, refuse to preserve and properly archive their records. This lack of accountability of Japan’s opaque bureaucracy to have a future toll as well.

—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe openly mocks critics of his unconstitutional 2015 security legislation: “I have received criticism that it was a so-called War Law. They can have whatever debates they like, because now it’s no more than empty talk.”

International

—Confirmed that all local municipalities will now join the Henoko base referendum on February 24. The conservative mayors will honor the compromise that will put three questions on the ballot: support, oppose, or neutral.

—Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games is backing Tsunekazu Takeda and insisting that Japan won its 2020 Olympic bid only because its campaign was the best, and not because of any bribery.

—Liberal Democratic Party Defense Affairs Division head Tomohiro Yamamoto vents his fury at South Korea at a ruling party meeting: “They are just a bunch of lying thieves!” he declares.

—Russia has reportedly seized a Japanese crab fishing boat in the Sea of Japan, which it says was operating illegally within the Russian exclusive economic zone.

—Japan Uyghur Association has organized a protest march in Shinjuku as a memorial to the February 1997 Ghulja incident in Xinjiang.

—Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga describes as “undesirable” the Trump administration pullout from the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, but as ever he refuses to openly criticize any US foreign policy, no matter how detrimental to Japan’s interest.

—So far, the Abe government is resisting Trump administration pressure to publicly support the US attempt to overthrow the government of Venezuela. Even some European nations have jumped on that shameful imperialist bandwagon… Figures. Spoke too soon. It seems that Foreign Minister Taro Kono is now giving speeches attacking Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. It seems that the Trump administration got on the phone and demanded the Abe government fall in line, which, of course, they are now doing.

—Foreign Minister Taro Kono makes clear that he would like to see new multilateral arms control treaties be implemented, even as the Trump administration rips up the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Kono and Bolton clearly not on the same page.

—Air Force Lt. Gen. Kevin Schneider, the new commander of US Forces Japan, insists that the US-Japan alliance has “never been stronger.”

—US President Donald Trump announces that his second meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un will take place in Vietnam on February 27 and 28.

Economy

—Japan-European Union trade agreement comes into effect. Consumers in Japan likely to see prices of some wines and cheeses come down in the months ahead.

—Labor Ministry announces that as of December, there were 163 job openings for every 100 Japan residents seeking work. Companies are having increasing difficulties finding staff.

—New Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard to join the Nissan Board of Directors. France is pushing hard for Senard to be appointed Nissan chairman as well, partially denying Hiroto Saikawa the fruits of his coup against Carlos Ghosn.

—Carlos Ghosn allowed to give short interview to the French media. AFP reports him saying, “I have an army of people throwing trash at me every day,” pointing out that Nissan and prosecutors have literally hundreds of people working to destroy his reputation every day.

—Agriculture Ministry calculates that the economic damage caused to the agricultural sector in 2018 through floods, earthquakes, and typhoons amounted to more than 566 billion yen (US$5.2 billion). Much of this damage is related to climate change.

—Brexit appears to have cost the United Kingdom a major investment from Nissan, which is now pulling out of a commitment to build a sports utility vehicle in Britain and looking for a safer location in Europe.

Technology

—Ten NGOs condemn Japan’s 2020 Olympics timber sourcing, “which fails to end the use of timber associated with rainforest destruction and human rights abuses that have been repeatedly found in Tokyo 2020’s timber supply chain.”

—Mos Burger to gradually phase out plastic cutlery by 2020. Some franchisees may take longer to implement the change. This is a measure to cut down on plastic pollution.

—Ruling party is outraged when Democratic Party For the People leader Yuichiro Tamaki uses a tablet device instead of paper documents when asking questions in the Diet. They force him to give up using the tablet and return to paper.

—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe makes a surprise visit to the Togoshi Ginza shopping street in Tokyo’s Shinagawa Ward to promote and test out cashless payment systems.

—It’s a nice juxtaposition of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe touring the streets of Tokyo to promote cashless payments and mobile technology, while his own party is outraged that an opposition lawmaker should use a tablet device in the Diet. Some people aren’t getting the memo.

Society

—Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications reports that in 2018 Japanese continued to drain out of the rural areas and into the big cities. The Tokyo region showed a net population increase of 140,000 people based on such domestic migration.

—Trains in Tokyo region may temporarily run later than usual during the 2020 Olympics period. Details still need to be worked out regarding precise scope and schedules.

—In Shinjuku, the racist Japan First Party conducts an anti-Korean rally, and is confronted by a larger number of anti-racism activists. An army of policemen also on the scene.

—Kyodo News highlights the fact that more professors who serve on government panels are receiving major research funds from the very industries that the government is asking them to propose regulations for. Neoliberalism infecting Japan’s academic world under new “reforms.”

—Lonely Japan! Survey suggests that more people may buy Valentines Day chocolates for themselves to enjoy than will actually receive chocolates from their loved ones.

Note: There were no separate “Today in Japan” reports issued between February 1 and February 5.

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