New Leaders in Japan Seek to End Cozy Ties to Press Clubs
TOKYO — Twice a week, Japan’s new minister of financial services is forced to hold two back-to-back news conferences: one for the members of Japan’s exclusive press clubs, the second for other journalists.
He does so because the press club members refused his proposal to open the conferences to nonmembers. Even though the agency provides the rooms for the meetings, the press club demanded that the minister, Shizuka Kamei, hold the second conference in a different room.
Japan’s new government is challenging one of the nation’s most powerful interest groups, the press clubs, a century-old, cartel-like arrangement in which reporters from major news media outlets are stationed inside government offices and enjoy close, constant access to officials. The system has long been criticized as antidemocratic by both foreign and Japanese analysts, who charge that it has produced a relatively spineless press that feels more accountable to its official sources than to the public. In their apparent reluctance to criticize the government, the critics say, the news media fail to serve as an effective check on authority.