Lights, camera… cut! Japan soul-searching over freedom of expression

TOKYO – Withdrawn endorsements for films and art exhibitions are reigniting a debate in Japan over self-censorship, exposing a struggle to balance freedom of expression with a cultural penchant for avoiding conflict.

The latest controversy arose when Japan last week cancelled its endorsement of an art exhibition in Austria commemorating 150 years of diplomatic relations. The collection includes work that critics say paint an unflattering picture of Japan and its Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

“We made the judgment that the contents of the exhibition did not promote the mutual understanding and friendly relations between Japan and Austria,” Mr Seiichiro Taguchi, director of the Foreign Ministry’s Central and South Eastern Europe Division, told Reuters.

The exhibition, titled “Japan Unlimited”, opened in late September and will run to Nov 24, now without the official Japan-Austria anniversary year logo.

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