Japan: Aichi Prefecture cancels art exhibition focused on censorship

This statement was originally published on pen-international.org on 7 August 2019.

On 3 August 2019, the Governor of Japan’s Aichi Prefecture announced the closure of an exhibition entitled ‘After “Freedom of Expression?”’ just three days after it had opened.

The exhibition, which opened on 1 August as part of the Aichi Triennale 2019, showcased a number of works that had previously been removed from public display in Japan, including a poem in support of pacifism and “Statue of a Girl at Peace”, a statue symbolising one of the Korean women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during the Second World War. The closure has led to thousands signing an online petition calling on the governor to reverse his decision.

According to media reports, the exhibition was closed owing to threats of terrorism. However, reports also indicate that local government officials had called for it to be closed as it “tramples on the feelings of Japanese citizens”.

During World War II, tens of thousands of women, mostly from Korea but also from other East Asian countries, were recruited into the sexual service of Japanese soldiers. The exploitation of ‘comfort women’ is a sensitive topic in Japan, where Japanese nationalists dispute that Korean women were conscripted into service on an institutional level. In December 2015, Japan and South Korea reached an ostensibly final settlement on the issue which has caused tensions between the two nations for many years, with Japan agreeing to pay 1 billion yen (c. D$ 9.2 m) to a fund to aid the then-43 surviving victims and South Korea agreeing to consider the matter resolved. The international dispute continued into 2017, with contentions over memorial statues outside the Korean consulate in Tokyo and a recall of a Japanese envoy to South Korea. In 2018, the Mayor of Osaka ended the city’s twinning relationship with San Francisco in protest against the installation of a monument representing comfort women from Korea, China and the Philippines.

The Japan P.E.N. Club Statement:

The Exhibition “After freedom of expression?” in Aichi Triennale 2019 should be continued

Producers are free to create and receivers are free to appreciate. If there is no space for communication between creation and appreciation, whether one agrees or disagrees, the significance of art will be lost and the spirit of freedom, which is the driving force of society, will shrink.

Takashi Kawamura, Mayor of Nagoya City, requested an immediate suspension of the exhibitions of “The Monument of Peace”” and others in “After freedom of expression?” in Aichi Triennale 2019 and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and others issued comments suggesting a suspension of the subsidy for the exhibitions.

Such statements by key government officials are nothing short of political pressure and lead to “censorship” prohibited by Article 21, Paragraph 2 of the Japanese Constitution. Moreover, we cannot help but say that he does not understand the significance of art, which has made people human since the birth of mankind and contributed to the expansion of society.

What the administration should do now is to secure opportunities for communication between creators and viewers through their works and to encourage their public display. We must guard against shortsightedness and celebrate the cultural diversity fostered by public displays of art.

3 August 2019

Shinobu Yoshioka

President

The Japan P.E.N.Club

To read this statement in Japanese, click here

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Source: MEDIA FEED

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Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) is a network of human rights journalists in Uganda working towards enhancing the promotion, protection and respect of human rights through defending and building the capacities of journalists, to effectively exercise their constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms for collective campaigning through the media.

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