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Why Japan’s poor media grade matters

15 26 5

As Abenomics approaches the five-year mark, expect the government to toss out loads of sunny figures and declare victory. But the two most important numbers — 0.7 and 72 — tell a gloomier story.

Japan’s potential growth rate 1,631 days into Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s tenure is an unmuscular 0.7 percent and inflation is essentially flat. The “three arrows” of his economic policy — monetary easing, fiscal loosening and deregulation — flew wide of the target even though Abe is armed with rare majorities in both houses of the Diet and reasonably buoyant approval numbers. Good luck spinning that as victory.

Abe’s second number, 72, is Tokyo’s press-freedom ranking by Reporters Without Borders. When Abe took office in December 2012, he inherited a ranking of 22, ahead of the United Kingdom and Australia. Today, Japan stands 50 spots lower, neighbored by Malawi and Croatia, and only barely besting Hong Kong, where China is forging shackles to hobble media autonomy. A coincidence? Try spinning this one, too.

It’s important to recognize how connected these two numbers really are.

Japan’s press-freedom shortcomings have been very much in the news thanks to reports from United Nations staffers. David Kaye, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on press matters, discerns “significant worrying signals” that “require attention........

© The Japan Times