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The Theory and Practice of Media Governance in Japan


Yosuke Buchmeier, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

In theory, freedom of expression enjoys powerful protection in Japan as the Japanese Constitution guarantees press freedom and explicitly prohibits censorship (Article 19 & 21). Japanese law (Broadcast Act, Article 3) bans any interference in editorial freedom and mandates media independence as well. In practice, however, media professionals, academics, and civil society members have repeatedly pointed at cases of political interference and a widespread exercise of self-censorship and agenda-cutting in the media. How can this gap between legal theory and media practice be explained? Guided by this key question, this paper will have a close look at media governance in Japan, thereby revealing weaknesses in the regulatory environment, examining the relationship between media and politics, and explaining why the current state of media governance is unlikely to change anytime soon.