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Friday, June 11, 2010

Kan keeps the media at arm's length, scales back interviews

Staff writer

Just days after forming his Cabinet, Prime Minister Naoto Kan has already been faced with tough decisions, including whether to extend the Diet session and how to turn around slumping stocks.

But the new prime minister is dashing forward on one initiative: distancing himself from the media.

During his inaugural news conference Tuesday, Kan said answering questions from reporters at times can hamper the government's activities, adding that as prime minister his duties don't necessarily include talking to the press.

"Holding frequent news conferences or answering the demands from the media doesn't mean that the government is open," Kan said.

The prime minister is moving quick to keep his word. By Wednesday he was ignoring requests for a daily standup interview with reporters in the morning, and the prime minister's office proposed calling off the practice.

Increasing the chasm between reporters and the government was Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku, who on Wednesday suggested to members of the "kisha" press club that he would only hold one news conference a day instead of two.

Instead, Kan offered to hold occasional news conferences that are open to a wider range of journalists and not only the members of the press club, whose memberships are limited to major domestic news organizations. Sengoku has also hinted he may open his daily briefing to all journalists.

The kisha clubs are likely to reject Kan and Sengoku's proposals.

Prime ministers have met with reporters once in the morning and once in the evening since Junichiro Koizumi made the practice his routine.

But this has sometimes taken a toll on administrations, as Kan noted.

For example, his predecessor, Yukio Hatoyama, followed through with the daily news conferences but began to limit the number of questions after the media incessantly criticized his flip-flops over the relocation of the Futenma military base. Hatoyama was visibly weary of facing the press by the time he left office last week, even opting not to hold a farewell news conference.

Asked to comment to the media on his way out, Hatoyama smiled and said "there has already been enough."

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The Japan Times

Article 4 of 15 in National news

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