Japan | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press



Freedom of the Press 2005

2005 Scores

Press Status


Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)


Press freedom is constitutionally guaranteed and generally respected in practice. Japan has a vigorous and free media and boasts the highest daily newspaper circulation per capita in the world. More than half of the national newspaper market share is controlled by "the big three": Yomiuri, Asahi, and Mainichi. There is considerable homogeneity in reports, which relate the news in a factual and neutral manner. Television news content, once dominated by the public station NHK, has diversified considerably with the rising popularity of Asahi, Fuji, TBS, and other stations. Homogeneity, especially in political news, is facilitated in part by a system of press clubs, or kisha kurabu, in which major media outlets have cozy relationships with bureaucrats and politicians. Exposés by media in press clubs are frowned upon and can result in the banning of members from press club briefings. Smaller media organizations and foreigners are excluded from press clubs, and in the past, the press club system has made it difficult for foreigners and investigative journalists from nonmainstream media to gain access to official news sources. However, in recent years the rising number of journalists who do not participate in press clubs has slightly eroded their power to act as gatekeepers for news concerning government ministries and political parties. In March, a district court ordered that an issue of a popular weekly be suspended from distribution after the court received a complaint about the content of an article contained in the issue; however, a higher court later overturned this decision.