Censorship in the Empire of Japan

Censorship in the Empire of Japan

in the Empire of Japan was a continuation of a long tradition beginning in the feudal period of Japan. Government censorship of the press existed in Japan during the Edo period, as the Tokugawa bakufu was in many ways a police state, which sought to control the spread of information, including Christianity, the influx of Western ideas, pornography and any political writings critical of the "Shogun" and government.

Meiji Period (1868-1912)

With the Meiji Restoration, the focus of state censorship of information shifted to protection of the Emperor and the fledgling Meiji government. Ideals of liberal democracy were considered dangerously subversive, and were targeted with the nihongo|Publication Ordinance of 1869|出版条例|Shuppan Jōrei, which banned certain subjects (including pornography), and subjected publications to pre-publication review and approvals. Initially intended to serve as a copyright law, it was quickly adopted as a method of controlling public anti-government criticism.

With the establishment of the cabinet system of government, the Home Ministry was assigned this task, and issues a variety of regulations aimed specifically at newspapers. The growth of the Freedom and People's Rights Movement caused a reaction by conservative elements within the government to pass strict libel laws in 1875, and also a draconian nihongo|Press Ordinance of 1875|新聞紙条例|Shimbunshi Jōrei that was so severe that it was labeled the “newspaper abolition law” as it empowered the Home Minister to ban or shut down offending newspapers which the government deemed offensive to public order or state security. The ordinance was further strengthened in revisions of 1887, which extended penalties to authors as well as publishers, and also restricted the import of foreign language newspapers with objectionable material.

During the First Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895, and the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, the Army Ministry also imposed separate censorship restrictions in time of war.

The censorship laws were revised again in the nihongo|Publication Law of 1893|出版法|Shuppan Hō, which remained virtually unchanged until 1949. Newspaper regulations followed suit in the nihongo|Press Law of 1909|新聞紙条例|Shimbunshi Jorei, which followed the regulations of the 1893 Publication Law and detailed punishments for offenses.

Taishō period (1912-1926)

Although the Taishō period is stereotyped as one of liberal politics, it was also a period of great social upheaval, and the government became increasingly heavy-handed in its attempts to control the spread of new political philosophies deemed dangerous to the government: especially socialism, communism, and anarchism. After the end of World War I, the Peace Preservation Law of 1925 increased police powers to prosecute promoters of socialism and of the Korean independence movement. Censorship restrictions were also expanded to cover religious groups. In 1928, the death penalty was added for certain violations, and the Special Higher Police Force (Tokkō) was created to deal with ideological offenses (i.e. thought crimes) on a national basis.

Early Showa Period (1926-1945)

In 1924, the Publications Monitoring Department of the Home Ministry was created with separate sections for censorship, investigation and general affairs. With the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Home Ministry, Army Ministry, Navy Ministry and Ministry of Foreign Affairs all held regular meetings with publishers to provide advice on how to follow the ever-stringent regulations. Penalties for violations increased in severity, and voice recordings (including radio broadcasts) also came under official purview. In 1936, an Information and Propaganda Department was created within the Home Ministry, which issued all official press statements, and which worked together with the Publications Monitoring Department on censorship issues.

In 1940, the nihongo|Information and Propaganda Department|情報部|Jōhōbu was elevated to the nihongo|Information Bureau|情報局|Jōhō Kyoku, which consolidated the previously separate information departments from the Army, Navy and Foreign Ministry under the aegis of the Home Ministry. The new Bureau had complete control over all news, advertising and public events.

The 1941 revision of the nihongo|National Mobilization Law|国家総動員法|Kokka Sōdōin Hō eliminated freedom of the press completely. All mail was also subject to scrutiny. In 1942, all newspapers were ordered to merge, or to cease publication. The Japan Publishers Association agreed to cooperate with the government by conducting internal monitoring of its members by a self-screening of drafts, manuscripts and proofs before final submission to the official government censors. As the war situation deteriorated, the government took over the distribution of paper, releasing supplies only for matter related to official policy. By 1944, only 34 magazines were left in publication, and by 1945, only one newspaper was permitted per prefecture.

After the surrender of Japan in 1945, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers abolished all forms of censorship and controls on Freedom of Speech, which was also integrated into Article 21 of the 1947 Constitution of Japan. However, press censorship remained a reality in the post-war era, especially in matters of pornography, and in political matters deemed subversive by the American government during the occupation of Japan.

ee also

*Censorship in Japan
*Domei Tsushin


*cite book
last = Kasza
first = Gregory J
authorlink =
coauthors =
year = 1993
chapter =
title = The State and the Mass Media in Japan, 1918-1945
publisher = University of California Press
location =
id = ISBN 0520082737

*cite book
last = Kushner
first = Barak
authorlink =
coauthors =
year = 2003
chapter =
title = The Thought War: Japanese Imperial Propaganda
publisher = University of Hawaii Press
location =
id = ISBN 0824832086

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