Japan: Unions demand gender equality in media

Four media workers’ unions in Japan have demanded gender equality in Japan’s media and call for stronger female representation in the industry, which they consider to be currently critically gender-biased against women. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joined forces to express support for their calls.

Representatives of Japan’s four union federations hold a press conference on February 10, 2021 to demand gender equality in the media industry. Credit: Screenshot, YouTube/ Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan

On February 10, members of Japan’s four key union federations held a press conference in light of the recent controversy surrounding sexist remarks made by former Japanese Prime Minister, Yoshiro Mori, in his role as the chair of Tokyo Olympics Organising Committee. 

In a committee meeting, Mori claimed that meetings including women tended to take too long, as “everyone ends up saying something”. The comments sparked outrage across Japan and led Mori to step down from the role on February 12.  

The four union federations include the women’s caucus of Japan Federation of Commercial Broadcast Workers’ Unions (Minpo Roren), Japan Federation of Newspaper Workers’ Unions (Shinbun Roren), Japan Federation of Publishing Workers’ Unions (Shuppan Roren), and the Women in Media Network Japan (WiMN). 

They demand an increase in women occupying executive positions in media industry associations to at least 30 per cent, to be achieved through setting numerical targets or introduction of quota systems. The unions also called for the establishment of a standing committee within associations to prioritise the promotion of gender equality in the media and address gender issues. 

According to the unions, none of the 45 board members in the Japan Commercial Broadcasters Association or the 53 board members in the Japan Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association were women. There are only two women on the board of the Japan Book Publishers Association, comprising 40 members, and only one woman on the 21-member board of the Japan Magazine Publishers Association.

The deputy chairperson of Minpo Roren, Hanako Kishida, said: "It is a serious problem that there are so few women decision makers in media companies that produce content for the public, and these products have a great impact on public opinion which may be skewed by biases.”

The IFJ said, “Diversity and gender equality is vital if the media is to fundamentally exercise its role in both informing and representing wider society. The media should be a reflection of society and it is only by ensuring women have a seat at the table and in decision-making roles that the media meets those obligations. The IFJ expresses solidarity with and commends Japan’s media trade unions in their calls for gender equality in the media industry.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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