In his 2009 book “Unreported Corrupt Relationship between Japanese Media and Police,” muckraking freelance journalist Yu Terasawa says Japanese newspapers’ circulation scandals have been covered up due to cozy ties between Japanese media and police through controversial kisha clubs.
Japanese police are teaming up with reporters at kisha clubs to exclude magazine reporters and freelance journalists like Terasawa from their news conferences, he says.
Here’s my 2016 article on Kisha Clubs
Tokyo (dpa) – Japan’s mainstream media wields enormous influence in a country where one political party has ruled for most of the last six decades.
Major news organizations have long been criticized for their tight relationships with authorities and big businesses through controversial kisha clubs.
But the issue has been largely ignored by most journalism scholars and the media itself.
Kisha clubs, filled with reporters from Japanese newspapers, wire services and broadcast stations, are attached to the prime minister’s office, courts, police, government ministries, local governments, political parties, business federations and so forth. A rent-free space is provided for reporters by those they cover.
Kisha clubs are criticized as an entrenched information cartel, as freelance journalists and reporters for magazines and foreign media are excluded in most cases.
Typically, non-club journalists break the news about most major scandals, while those within kisha clubs rarely do.
As the mainstream media is too reliant upon information from kisha clubs, critics say the practice has eroded the objectivity of journalism. The clubs are also criticized for failing to seek information that authorities want to hide.
“The kisha club system should be abolished,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, during his visit to Japan in April. Kisha clubs are a “hindrance to media independence in the country,” he said.
Some journalists working for major media outlets even serve as shingikai (government committee) members. They are not obliged to report what they discuss with government officials and other committee members.
On the legal front, Japanese newspapers and publishing companies have been well protected by the country’s controversial resale price maintenance system, critics say. The price-fixing law prevents newspapers, magazines and books from being discounted.