SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English
Li Gang Zhe “Freedom of Speech, Control, Self-discipline and Surmise by the Media”
Recently, amid Covid-19, freedom of speech and control of the mass media are highlighted.
According to the Kyodo (News Service), “Reporters Without Borders “(RSF) (HQ: Paris) reported on April 21, 2020 that world rankings of freedom of the media in 2020. Japan was 66th in 180 countries and areas, a rank up comparing with last year and was pointed out editorial policy of Japanese media depends on their economic profits. Hungary, power politics under the Orban administration due to the Covid-19 pandemics, was 89th. China, under information control, kept the same ranking at 177th. North Korea, which insisted no infected persons, dropped to the lowest 179th. Norway kept the first rank during these４consecutive years. Finland and Denmark followed. The United States went up to 45th from 48th.
In connection with those rankings, the writer is interested in how the freedom of speech is guaranteed or controlled in each country.
To begin with, in almost all the countries, “freedom of speech” is guaranteed by the Constitution. Even in the dictatorship countries by Communist Party like China and North Korea which are the lowest in the ranking, freedom of speech, freedom of press and freedom of assembly must be guaranteed. However, actual situations may be in “unconstitutionality”. However again, since their national power can trample on the Constitution, they cannot check their “unconstitutionalities”.
Then how about in democratic nations? Japan, which is an advanced and democratic country,
cannot be said to be a country where freedom of speech is guaranteed. I asked students in my seminar to check Japanese ranking of the freedom of press and came to know that Japan is 66th. I was surprised to hear that students were talking “it may be quicker to count Japanese ranking from the back”. Even young students, who rarely read newspapers usually, feel so.
A staff of my university told me that an Associate Professor, Kanazawa University (in the same city with my Hokuriku University) has died from the new coronavirus. I was surprised and searched on internet. He was 42 years old. Since the middle of November, he has been recuperating at his house getting some medicine from hospital after being diagnosed with influenza. Since he was not cured completely in spite of the fever went down a little, he telephoned twice to the public health center for PCR testing and was told twice that he cannot get PCR test without doctor’s diagnosis. His wife tried to speak through SNS, since he had been working away from home, and found about his death when she has asked a staff member of his university to confirm his presence. He was asthma originally and judged to have been Covid-19 by PCR testing after his death.
I thought the above was an important news for mass medias. But it was not published in newspapers nor reported on TV. It was on December 5th , ten days after the incident, when the Hokuriku-Chunichi Shinbun (Newspaper) reported the incident shortly as follows.
[Hokuriku-Chunichi Shinbun on December 5 , 2020]
In Ishikawa Pref., medical institutions, which can test both Covid-19 and influenza, are designated at 180 places. The late Mr. Hiroo Takahashi, 42 years old, an associated professor, Kanazawa University, could not get PCR testing which should have been prepared well.
The Tokyo Shinbun (Newspaper), the same network newspaper with the Hokuriku-Chunichi run the news. But even the local people could not get to know his death.
Why did this news not made the headlines? Is it concealment done by the university? Is it a “surmise” (read between the lines) toward the authorities? We have no way of finding the truth. But I believe that it is the real function of media in democratic countries to take up such incident and pursue a liability of the authorities. There may be other reasons to hide or underreport. My acquainted knowledgeable people were very suspicious saying that the Government were hiding something intentionally, or freedom of press was controlled, or media side were self-restraint or surmise. It is good example that Japan is ranking 66th.
Then, how about America which is ranking at 45th? I lost profess toward democracy completely through the Presidency election this time. I, as a multi-linguist, watching medias in Taiwan and Korea every day or Chinese media in America with big interests in the election relying on YouTube. I have been watching a lot of “the backside information” every day and was disappointed with actual conditions of election processes, i.e., how actual conditions were not reported objectively.
In conclusion, American democracy has already collapsed. Mainstreams of American media report is just a side of the truth. They are closing their eyes to the fact that “electoral fraud” has robbed “the authority” and their reports seldom touch the establishment and has trampled the Constitution of the United States and their democracy. SNS and net-media are restricted the people and are opposite politically. It was typical that twitters were controlled by President Trump. It was unprecedented that remarks by the President of the United States, which is the biggest democratic country in the world and was controlled by the independent judgement of the medias. Not only twitters but also other main social medias like FACEBOOK controlled the voice of citizens. It is indescribable for medias, which are not national authority to control the voice of citizens by their own “fact check”. If there is only biased coverage, citizens cannot get the truth of political judgement. If so, justice and fairness of the election, which is the means of execution of democracy, would be distorted.
It is no exaggeration to say that democracy has collapsed.
Media, which should have a mission to convey the truth to citizens fairly and justly, lose their neutrality (by the writer’s standard of value) and intervene politics, we cannot get news of fairness, justice and freedom anymore. My values, philosophy and idea, which I have espoused and pursued, have crashed in my heart. I may lose my grounds of criticism hereafter against authoritarianism.
Everybody knows the medias are controlled severely in authoritarianism countries. However, in democratic countries, a lot of people consider that the freedom of speech is “out of the questions”. There may be no difference between both countries in which citizens are deprived of the right to know the truth. Leaders or intellectual persons in authoritarian countries sneered at the election in America which is the “So-Honzan (head quoter)” of democracy saying “Look! Democracy is hypocrisy and freedom of speech is an untruth.” “Our system is superior to democracy.” They emphasize their system superiority over their correspondence against Covid-19 too.
Nevertheless, I do not think authoritarianism, which oppress freedom of speech ruthlessly, can justify themselves and must be forsook by the citizens soon or later because those countries are “people’s republic” in which sovereignty lies with people, not the feudal country. Administration, which has been built for the sake of farmers adopting a slogan “Dictatorship by the Proletariat”, has converted to “Dictatorship by the bourgeoisie and the elite”.
In any countries and any day or age, I do not think the administration which do not govern the country without reading the mind of people, will last long stably. In Chinese classics there is a golden saying “水能載舟、亦能覆舟“(by Xun Kuang). It means “statesmen are equal to ship and people are equal to water”. Water runs safely putting a vessel on but can overthrow a vessel sometimes. It is a commandment for statesman.
Li Gang Zhe/Professor Hokuriku University
Translated by Kazuo Kawamura
English checked by Sabina Koirala