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Cabinet Office shutting out reporters from bureau linked to Kake scandal

  • May 30, 2017
  • , The Mainichi
  • English Press

The Cabinet Office has shut out the media from a building housing a bureau in charge of national strategic special economic zones following media reports on allegations that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attempted to influence a ministry decision over a plan for his friend’s school corporation to open a new veterinary department in one such zone.

 

Starting April 10, the Cabinet Office has kept the Nagatacho joint government building in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward — housing the bureau for promoting local economy vitalization, which is in charge of national strategic special economic zones — from reporters without interview appointments. The move came after opposition parties raised allegations over Okayama-based Kake Educational Institution’s veterinary school project and the media started to cover the scandal.

 

Basically, reporters covering Diet affairs and government agencies can enter government buildings, including the Cabinet Office’s main office, as long as they present their “Diet reporter” ID cards with a photo. After the April 10 change of rule, however, reporters are asked by security guards at the entrance to the Nagatacho joint government building whether they have appointments with staff inside.

 

The day the rule change was implemented coincides with the day the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology consulted with its Council for University Chartering and School Juridical Person over approval of Kake institution’s veterinary school project.

 

The Cabinet Office’s Accounts Division explained that the access restriction stems from the absence of press conferences at the bureau in question, adding, “The move has nothing to do with the series of media reports, and is just part of our efforts to improve operations.”

 

In a related move, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry started locking all of its offices in February on the pretext of “thorough information management.”

 

Jun Oguro, professor at Doshisha University and former Kyodo News reporter, criticizes the government bodies’ moves, saying, “The trends among government ministries and agencies — which have accountability to the public — to unilaterally restrict media coverage have become conspicuous (under the Abe administration).”

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