--The Asahi Shimbun, June 26
EDITORIAL: Time for Japan to breathe new life into freedom of expression
(社説)参院選 表現の自由 先細りさせぬために

Japan has been on a downward spiral in one rating since the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe returned to the helm of government in December 2012.
安倍政権になってから評価が下がり続けている指標がある。

The nation ranked 22nd in the annual World Press Freedom Index under the previous administration of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. This year, Japan sank to a record low of 72nd among the 180 countries and regions surveyed by Reporters Without Borders, an international nongovernmental body.
国際NGO・国境なき記者団が毎年発表している「報道の自由度ランキング」だ。前の野田政権のころは22位だったが、ことしは180の国・地域の中で72位と過去最低になった。

While the adequacy of that figure may be open to debate, many people probably feel it is becoming more difficult to freely say things out loud and that a stifling air hangs low over our society.
数字が妥当かどうかはともかく、自由にものが言いにくくなり、息苦しい空気が世の中をおおっている感覚は、多くの人が共有するのではないか。

Let us take this opportunity to recall what has happened during the three-and-a-half years of Abe’s second stint as prime minister.
あらためてこの3年半の出来事を思い起こしてみる。

The state secrets protection law was enacted, despite the many questions that surrounded it. The prime minister complained that a TV news program was biased. The communications minister said in the Diet that the government could order a broadcaster to shut down its operations. During a study session by lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party who are close to Abe, one lawmaker said, “The most effective way to punish media organizations is to shut off their advertising revenues.”
多くの疑問を残したまま特定秘密保護法が制定された。首相はニュース番組が偏っていると文句を言い、総務相は放送局に電波停止を命じることもあると答弁した。首相に近い自民党議員らの勉強会では「マスコミを懲らしめるため広告料収入を断て」との発言が飛び出した。

It is not just freedom of reporting that is at stake.
揺れているのは報道の自由だけではない。

A growing number of local governments are withdrawing from backing meetings or refusing the use of halls for meetings on defending the current Constitution. The local governments’ reasoning is that such meetings are political in nature.
憲法を守ろうという訴えは政治的だとして、自治体が集会の後援を断ったり、会場使用を認めなかったりする動きが各地に広がる。

Publishers are being required to spell out the government stance in school textbooks. The education minister asked national universities to raise the Hinomaru, Japan’s national flag, and sing “Kimigayo,” the country’s national anthem, during ceremonies.
教科書に政府見解を書くことが求められ、文科相は国立大の式典では日の丸をあげ、君が代を歌うよう要請した。

All this is taking place in a country under a Constitution that guarantees the freedom of expression, assembly, thought, conscience and academic studies.
これが、表現、集会、思想・良心、学問の自由を保障した憲法をもつ国の姿である。

Some may think that a lack of employment or money is a direct threat on livelihoods, but that an alleged crisis of moral freedoms entails no visible loss, so perhaps there is no need to make a fuss about it.
こんなふうに思う人もいるかもしれない。仕事やお金がないと明日からの生活に困る。しかし精神的自由が危ういと言われても、目に見える損害があるわけではないし、騒ぎ立てるほどの話ではないのでは、と。

But in a society where free thought and free speech are restricted, it will become difficult to call on the government to secure jobs, cash and a peaceful life, or to criticize a government that fails to respond to such calls.
だが、自由な考えと自由な口が封じられた社会においては、仕事、お金、平和なくらしを政府に求めることも、そして、それにこたえない政府を批判することもできなくなる。

Japan under the prewar Constitution was exactly like that.
旧憲法下の日本がまさにそうだった。

Let us review the positions that different political parties are taking on this issue as they campaign for the Upper House election in July.
この問題について、参院選にのぞむ各党はどんな考えをもっているのか。

The LDP has released a draft of an amended constitution that imposes restrictions on the freedom of expressive activity. The campaign platform of Komeito, the LDP’s junior coalition partner, contains no mention of the current state or the future of moral freedoms, even though Soka Gakkai, a lay Buddhist group and Komeito’s primary support base, suffered a crackdown during the prewar years.
自民党は、表現活動の自由に制約を課す改憲案を公表している。公明党は、支持母体の創価学会が戦前に弾圧をうけた経験をもつが、公約に精神的自由の現状や将来への言及はない。

The Democratic Party is advocating the “right to know” as an indispensable instrument for guaranteeing the freedom of expression. The main opposition party is also calling for revising the Law on Access to Information Held by Administrative Organs. The Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party say they are opposed to those in power intervening in activities of speech and expression.
民進党は、表現の自由を保障するうえで欠かせない「知る権利」を唱え、情報公開法の改正を訴える。共産党と社民党は言論や表現活動に権力が介入するのは反対だと主張している。

The Supreme Court has defined the freedom of expression as a “particularly important component of basic human rights.” We could either breathe new life into it or allow it to taper off.
「基本的人権のうちでもとりわけ重要」と最高裁が位置づけてきた表現の自由に、命を吹きこみ直すか、それとも先細りを許すか。

That point of view deserves to receive due respect as voters decide which candidate or party to vote for.
投票先を決めるとき、そんな視点も大切にしたい。

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