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Sunday, June 10, 2001

Reporters barred from Osaka police briefings


Staff writer

IKEDA, Osaka Pref. — Foreign and Japanese media organizations not part of the Osaka Prefectural Police press club arrived to cover the murder of eight elementary school students only to find themselves locked out of official police briefings.

On Friday, reporters from The Japan Times, The Associated Press, Reuters and Japanese weekly magazines and sports newspapers were told by Osaka police that they could not attend official briefings at Ikeda Elementary School unless Japanese media organizations that are members of the police club granted their unanimous permission.

The media organizations, however, refused to allow the foreign media to participate in the briefings, even as observers.

One journalist from the Mainichi Shimbun, which is one of the club's leaders, said requests to attend a police briefing had to be granted "in advance," despite the fact that several of those who were barred from the briefing had complied with that regulation.

After the foreign media protested at their exclusion, Osaka police agreed to conduct a separate press conference following the official briefings, but again only if the Japanese press club members gave their consent.

Permission was granted, and the briefing, which lasted about 10 minutes, took place after a 40-minute meeting between the police and club members in the school. Police read from their notes and refused to allow either photographs or the use of tape recorders. Osaka police refused to say if further briefings for journalists who are not members of the club would be provided, saying that it was up to the Japanese media.

Several foreign media organizations based in Tokyo have told The Japan Times in the past that attending press briefings by Osaka Prefectural Police is particularly difficult due to the closed nature of the institution and the opposition of the local media.

While other local governments, notably Nagano Prefecture, have promised to open up their press clubs to outside organizations, foreign media are usually forbidden to join press clubs run by Kansai area local governments.

Like the Osaka police, local governments say that permission must first be obtained from the Japanese media that head the press club.

Foreign wire services have been allowed to attend official press conferences conducted by Kobe and Osaka cities, but only on a case-by-case basis and only with the prior approval of the press club leaders. Press clubs at local business organizations and the Osaka Stock Exchange, however, permit foreign media to join.



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