Katsuya Fujimoto and Shuichi Yutaka, the general secretary
and the president of Shinbun Roren, the Japan Federation of Newspaper Workers’
Unions, sit at a table in their office in
They say they are optimistic about improving access to press conferences for journalists who are not members of the exclusive clubs, which give print and broadcast journalists exclusive access to press conferences and high-level anonymous sources. The union formally requested such access in 1994 and 2002, to no avail. Freelance, Internet and foreign reporters are frequently excluded. But on February 9, they say, in a little-reported weekly press conference, Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications, Kazuhiro Haraguchi—who has already made his own ministry’s press club open its doors—told journalists he planned to investigate the openness of press conferences in all government ministries, including the prosecutor’s office.
That development marks a small step toward meeting promises made by the Democratic Party of Japan in the run-up to the 2009 election, when they defeated the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Ironically, Fujimoto says, pressure on the government to fulfill that pledge has grown because of a news storm surrounding Japanese prosecutors’ investigation of the party’s secretary-general, Ichiro Ozawa, for alleged corruption.
the unions grapple with is physical stress. Working long hours is so embedded
in the industry culture that death from overwork, with symptoms including heart
attacks or brain aneurysm, is a source of real concern in