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Friday, Jan. 27, 2012

Freedom of press hurt by nuclear crisis: group

Staff writer

Freedom of the press in Japan fell last year to a ranking of only 22nd in the world, from 11th the year before, due to "excessive restrictions" on reporting the Fukushima nuclear crisis, according to the global nonprofit group Reporters Without Borders.

In its 10th annual rankings, Japan placed 22nd out of 179 nations studied.

While three countries ruled by dictatorships, Eritrea, Turkmenistan and North Korea, continued to occupy the bottom three places, countries known for respecting the basic freedom of the press, including Finland, Norway and the Netherlands, retained the top positions, the Paris-based group announced Wednesday.

"Japan coverage of the tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear accident gave rise to excessive restrictions and exposed the limits of the pluralism of the country's press," the organization said in a news release.

In the aftermath of the devastating March 11 quake and tsunami, the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. have faced harsh criticism over slow disclosure of information about the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

Confirmation of reactor meltdowns came months after they actually happened, and the amount of radioactive materials released from the plant was later revised sharply higher.

As for the overall view in the past year, crackdowns on protest movements in the Arab world caused big changes in the group's evaluations.

"This year's index sees many changes in the rankings, changes that reflect a year that was incredibly rich in developments, especially in the Arab world," the group said.

For example, Tunisia rose 30 places to 134th in the index. Libya, where the regime of Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown, rose to 154th.

Elsewhere in the world, the United States saw its position fall by 27 places to 47th after many journalists covering Occupy Wall Street protests were arrested, according to Reporters Without Borders.

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The Japan Times

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