Submitted by:

Kenichi ASANO

Doshisha University

Kyoto, Japan

 

Fifth Meeting, Alliance of Independent Press Councils in Europe (AIPCE )

11-12 September 2003

Stockholm, Sweden

 

I have been on sabbatical leave from my university for academic research abroad from April 2002 to June 2003. I stayed eight months in London as a visiting scholar at the University of Westminster. I traveled to more than 20 countries to gather information on press accountability systems and press ethics issues. The following is a very rough report of my research.

 

*My areas of interest

 

Let me introduce myself briefly. I worked as a Kyodo News reporter for 22 years. As a news reporter of Kyodo News, I was looking for a way for Japan to harmonize a free press and the individual integrity of its people. I thought we needed to have press council and press ombudsman systems in Japan. I started to work on introducing the idea of an ombudsman system in our society. I became a professor of journalism at Doshisha University in April 1994.

Here are several questions I try to clarify:

1 What is the basic role of the mass media in covering crimes in a free and democratic society? How should journalists work with police officers and prosecutors?

2 Can criminal reporting contribute to suppressing crime?

3 How should news reporters behave and report crimes ethically? Is it ethical to write the names of juvenile criminals? Is it possible to divide public figures and private citizens when covering crimes?

4 How should we harmonize freedom of the press and an alleged suspectfs human integrity and privacy? Especially, how far should the media publicize his or her name and identity in reporting criminal cases?

5 What areas and how should the press reform its criminal news reporting?


I am going to publish a book which tries to compare media accountability systems around the world.

I am very much interested in criminal reporting and media accountability systems. My theme is how to harmonize the rights of a victim, a suspect and/or defendant, and the peoplefs right to know. I want to do research on working journalists and editors, together with readers in various countries. I want to study the history of Press Councils and their present situation now. I also plan to compare media accountability systems in various countries throughout the world.

*Press Councils around the world

 

For the first eight months, I studied Press Councils (PCs) in UK and the Press Ombudsman & Press Council in Sweden. In February 2003 I did research in Australia and New Zealand. Then I flew to the United States, Austria, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Canada.

 

Media accountability systems vary all over the world. However, they all have a common purpose:

--To protect press freedom from the authorities

--To enhance credibility and trust in the media among the public

--To evade statutory regulation by the state

 

PCs deal with unjustified violations of the press in order to maintain a good standard of journalism. The press recognizes that the individual citizen is entitled to respect for his personal integrity and the sanctity of his private life. Generally speaking I found that most of the press councils in the world are working well. The composition of members of Press Councils vary from country to country. Journalist unions send members in Sweden, Finland, Norway, Germany, New Zealand, etc. In the UK and Australia, there are no union members.

 

Having members who are representative of the public is also important.

 

*New Zealand Press Council

 

I found that the New Zealand Press Council is very similar to Scandinavian press councils. It has an office in Wellington. The secretary of the PC is Ms. Mary Major.

 

There are 12 members. The Chief Ombudsman of New Zealand and press organizations appoint members. Mr. John Jeffries, a former Supreme Court judge, is a chairperson. Representatives are:

5 from the public

2 from newspaper publishers

1 from magazine publisher

3 from media union

 

I interviewed retired Professor Stuart Johnson and Mr. Alan Samson, who is a reporter for Dominion.

 

*PC budgets

 

The independence of press councils is another concern and interest. Some parts of the PC budget comes from the government in Finland and Germany. Press Councils in these countries include the broadcast media

 

Not only human rights violations caused by misconduct of reporting, but also collecting information itself is monitored in countries like Norway.

 

*The case of Denmark

 

In Denmark, the Press Council is based on law. The Danish Parliament and Media agreed that the PC is covered under The Media Liability Act, which was enacted in 1992. Article 34 of Chapter 5 in the gPress Ethicsh states that violations of press ethics are dealt with by Danish Press Councils.  The National Code of Conduct is a legal code adopted by the Danish Parliament, with the acceptance of the national union of journalists in 1992.

 

The Danish Press Council has 8 members. I interviewed Mr. Tage Clausen, senior editor of Jyllands-Posten and Mr. Niels Grubbe, Supreme Court Judge. According to them, they have not experienced any interference in media ethics matters by the authorities. The Prime Minister once made a modest comment on one of the Press Council decisions to censure, and he faced very strong criticism from the media industry and union.

 

The Austrian Press Council is not working now. The problem comes from the major newspapersf lack of cooperation. Mr. Paul Vecsei, chairperson of APC, is planning to revive it soon.

 

Prof. Kaarle Nordenstreng of the University of Tampere and his colleagues are helping former USSR countries to establish press councils there.

*Does Japan have a Press Council?

 

In Japan we donft have a press council yet. I have been making efforts to establish a media accountability system in our country with my colleagues of the Liaison Committee on Human Rights and Mass Media Conduct (JIMPOREN). JIMPOREN was established in 1985.

 

See gObstacles To Establishing Ombudsmen In Japanh by Kenichi Asano at:

FEATURES/2000/england2.html

 

I was very much surprised to read a table printed on DEONTOLOGIE DES MEDIAS--Institutions, pratiques et nouvelles approches dans le monde. Professor Odd Raaum of Oslo University college showed this book to me when I met him. The book is authored by Par Henri Pigeat et Jean Huteau, and was published by UNESCO in 2001.

 

According to this list on p. 42, Japan has a code of press ethics and Press Council. This is not true at all. The Japanese Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association (NSK) has its own Code of Ethics. It was revised in 2000. However, there is no body existing to monitor whether journalists are following the Code or not. Therefore, very few news reporters or editors think of the Code in the course of their daily professional duties.

 

The issue of press ethics in Japan is covered on pp. 248-257 of this book. Major newspapers in Japan, as well as some media academics, insist that Kiji-shinsa-shitsu or Shinbun-kannsa-iinkai can be said to be an ombudsman or press council. Some say that it is a unique Japanese version of the ombudsman system. But it is merely an in-house quality-control body. It is also used to fight complaints against newspapers.

 

On p. 255 of this book, it is reported that the Yomiuri Shinbun has a press ombudsman. My guess is that Mr. Takeshi Maesawa has told experts abroad that he is an ombudsman of the paper. He had a column titled gOmbudsman of Yomiuri Shinbunh in the Daily Yomiuri, which is the English-language paper of the Yomiuri Shinbun.

 

The Yomiuri Shinbun, for its part, had admitted that Mr. Maesawafs self-proclaimed status of ombudsman was nothing of the kind, when JIMPOREN made an inquiry with the paper in 1987. The paper said that Maesawa is using the paperfs name on his own accord. Mr..Maesawa began criticizing the president of the Yomiuri Shinbun fiercely after he retired from the Yomiuri and began teaching at university.

 

Mr. Ian Mayes, the readersf representative of The Guardian newspaper, also believed that the Yomiuri had an ombudsman system in place.

 

I interviewed these experts:

Mr. Tom OfMalley, author of Regulating the press

Mr. Kenneth Morgan in the UK

Dr. Thorsten Cars in Sweden

 

In closing, allow me to pass along a few weblinks that will give you a clearer picture of my past and current work.

 

*Kyoto Journal article

http://www.kampo.co.jp/kyoto-journal/media/asano.html

*Liaison Committee on Human Rights and Mass Media Conduct (JIMPOREN)
http://www.jca.ax.apc.org/~jimporen/welcome.html

*
Doshisha University webpage

index.html
(mostly in Japanese, but includes some "Feature Articles" toward the bottom in English)


*Harvard Asia Quarterly essay text

FEATURES/2001/harvard.html

*hThursday Night Talkh (radio talk show on KHSU-FM in Arcata, Ca, USA) excerpts - March 20, 2003(preface by Professor Asano)

FEATURES/2003/eusafmradiod.html

Submitted by:

Kenichi ASANO

Doshisha University

Kyoto, Japan

 

Fifth Meeting, Alliance of Independent Press Councils in Europe (AIPCE )

11-12 September 2003

Stockholm, Sweden

 

I have been on sabbatical leave from my university for academic research abroad from April 2002 to June 2003. I stayed eight months in London as a visiting scholar at the University of Westminster. I traveled to more than 20 countries to gather information on press accountability systems and press ethics issues. The following is a very rough report of my research.

 

*My areas of interest

 

Let me introduce myself briefly. I worked as a Kyodo News reporter for 22 years. As a news reporter of Kyodo News, I was looking for a way for Japan to harmonize a free press and the individual integrity of its people. I thought we needed to have press council and press ombudsman systems in Japan. I started to work on introducing the idea of an ombudsman system in our society. I became a professor of journalism at Doshisha University in April 1994.

Here are several questions I try to clarify:

1 What is the basic role of the mass media in covering crimes in a free and democratic society? How should journalists work with police officers and prosecutors?

2 Can criminal reporting contribute to suppressing crime?

3 How should news reporters behave and report crimes ethically? Is it ethical to write the names of juvenile criminals? Is it possible to divide public figures and private citizens when covering crimes?

4 How should we harmonize freedom of the press and an alleged suspectfs human integrity and privacy? Especially, how far should the media publicize his or her name and identity in reporting criminal cases?

5 What areas and how should the press reform its criminal news reporting?


I am going to publish a book which tries to compare media accountability systems around the world.

I am very much interested in criminal reporting and media accountability systems. My theme is how to harmonize the rights of a victim, a suspect and/or defendant, and the peoplefs right to know. I want to do research on working journalists and editors, together with readers in various countries. I want to study the history of Press Councils and their present situation now. I also plan to compare media accountability systems in various countries throughout the world.

*Press Councils around the world

 

For the first eight months, I studied Press Councils (PCs) in UK and the Press Ombudsman & Press Council in Sweden. In February 2003 I did research in Australia and New Zealand. Then I flew to the United States, Austria, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Canada.

 

Media accountability systems vary all over the world. However, they all have a common purpose:

--To protect press freedom from the authorities

--To enhance credibility and trust in the media among the public

--To evade statutory regulation by the state

 

PCs deal with unjustified violations of the press in order to maintain a good standard of journalism. The press recognizes that the individual citizen is entitled to respect for his personal integrity and the sanctity of his private life. Generally speaking I found that most of the press councils in the world are working well. The composition of members of Press Councils vary from country to country. Journalist unions send members in Sweden, Finland, Norway, Germany, New Zealand, etc. In the UK and Australia, there are no union members.

 

Having members who are representative of the public is also important.

 

*New Zealand Press Council

 

I found that the New Zealand Press Council is very similar to Scandinavian press councils. It has an office in Wellington. The secretary of the PC is Ms. Mary Major.

 

There are 12 members. The Chief Ombudsman of New Zealand and press organizations appoint members. Mr. John Jeffries, a former Supreme Court judge, is a chairperson. Representatives are:

5 from the public

2 from newspaper publishers

1 from magazine publisher

3 from media union

 

I interviewed retired Professor Stuart Johnson and Mr. Alan Samson, who is a reporter for Dominion.

 

*PC budgets

 

The independence of press councils is another concern and interest. Some parts of the PC budget comes from the government in Finland and Germany. Press Councils in these countries include the broadcast media

 

Not only human rights violations caused by misconduct of reporting, but also collecting information itself is monitored in countries like Norway.

 

*The case of Denmark

 

In Denmark, the Press Council is based on law. The Danish Parliament and Media agreed that the PC is covered under The Media Liability Act, which was enacted in 1992. Article 34 of Chapter 5 in the gPress Ethicsh states that violations of press ethics are dealt with by Danish Press Councils.  The National Code of Conduct is a legal code adopted by the Danish Parliament, with the acceptance of the national union of journalists in 1992.

 

The Danish Press Council has 8 members. I interviewed Mr. Tage Clausen, senior editor of Jyllands-Posten and Mr. Niels Grubbe, Supreme Court Judge. According to them, they have not experienced any interference in media ethics matters by the authorities. The Prime Minister once made a modest comment on one of the Press Council decisions to censure, and he faced very strong criticism from the media industry and union.

 

The Austrian Press Council is not working now. The problem comes from the major newspapersf lack of cooperation. Mr. Paul Vecsei, chairperson of APC, is planning to revive it soon.

 

Prof. Kaarle Nordenstreng of the University of Tampere and his colleagues are helping former USSR countries to establish press councils there.

*Does Japan have a Press Council?

 

In Japan we donft have a press council yet. I have been making efforts to establish a media accountability system in our country with my colleagues of the Liaison Committee on Human Rights and Mass Media Conduct (JIMPOREN). JIMPOREN was established in 1985.

 

See gObstacles To Establishing Ombudsmen In Japanh by Kenichi Asano at:

FEATURES/2000/england2.html

 

I was very much surprised to read a table printed on DEONTOLOGIE DES MEDIAS--Institutions, pratiques et nouvelles approches dans le monde. Professor Odd Raaum of Oslo University college showed this book to me when I met him. The book is authored by Par Henri Pigeat et Jean Huteau, and was published by UNESCO in 2001.

 

According to this list on p. 42, Japan has a code of press ethics and Press Council. This is not true at all. The Japanese Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association (NSK) has its own Code of Ethics. It was revised in 2000. However, there is no body existing to monitor whether journalists are following the Code or not. Therefore, very few news reporters or editors think of the Code in the course of their daily professional duties.

 

The issue of press ethics in Japan is covered on pp. 248-257 of this book. Major newspapers in Japan, as well as some media academics, insist that Kiji-shinsa-shitsu or Shinbun-kannsa-iinkai can be said to be an ombudsman or press council. Some say that it is a unique Japanese version of the ombudsman system. But it is merely an in-house quality-control body. It is also used to fight complaints against newspapers.

 

On p. 255 of this book, it is reported that the Yomiuri Shinbun has a press ombudsman. My guess is that Mr. Takeshi Maesawa has told experts abroad that he is an ombudsman of the paper. He had a column titled gOmbudsman of Yomiuri Shinbunh in the Daily Yomiuri, which is the English-language paper of the Yomiuri Shinbun.

 

The Yomiuri Shinbun, for its part, had admitted that Mr. Maesawafs self-proclaimed status of ombudsman was nothing of the kind, when JIMPOREN made an inquiry with the paper in 1987. The paper said that Maesawa is using the paperfs name on his own accord. Mr..Maesawa began criticizing the president of the Yomiuri Shinbun fiercely after he retired from the Yomiuri and began teaching at university.

 

Mr. Ian Mayes, the readersf representative of The Guardian newspaper, also believed that the Yomiuri had an ombudsman system in place.

 

I interviewed these experts:

Mr. Tom OfMalley, author of Regulating the press

Mr. Kenneth Morgan in the UK

Dr. Thorsten Cars in Sweden

 

In closing, allow me to pass along a few weblinks that will give you a clearer picture of my past and current work.

 

*Kyoto Journal article

http://www.kampo.co.jp/kyoto-journal/media/asano.html

*Liaison Committee on Human Rights and Mass Media Conduct (JIMPOREN)
http://www.jca.ax.apc.org/~jimporen/welcome.html

*
Doshisha University webpage

index.html
(mostly in Japanese, but includes some "Feature Articles" toward the bottom in English)


*Harvard Asia Quarterly essay text

FEATURES/2001/harvard.html

*hThursday Night Talkh (radio talk show on KHSU-FM in Arcata, Ca, USA) excerpts - March 20, 2003 (preface by Professor Asano)

FEATURES/2003/eusafmradiod.html

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Copyright (c) 2003, Prof.Asano Ken'ichi's Seminar Last updated 2003.09.19