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Declaration of Departure from the Press Club System 

There are said to be over 800 gpress clubsh operating in Japan today. We are now in the twenty-first century, when even financial institutions—who have long held harmony in such high regard—have had to break with their gconvoy systems,h but these clubs continue to exert their influence.

  Press clubs were originally fraternal organizations, membership in which was voluntary and whose members were newspaper companies, news agencies, and broadcast networks. While some of this original character has been maintained, it has been impossible to prevent their becoming exclusionary vested-interest groups. In fact, since the great majority of press conferences take place under the auspices of press clubs, it is difficult for reporters not affiliated with a company belonging to the clubs to attend such events.

  The facilities made available to the press clubs and their member newspapers, agencies, and broadcasters have in many cases become vested interests. The situation in Nagano Prefecture is no exception. The Prefectural Government Press Club (Kensei Kisha Kurabu), the Prefectural Government Specialist Newspapers Press Club (Kensei Senmon-shi Kisha Kurabu), and the Prefectural Government Press Association (Kensei Kisha Kai) have for a long time occupied rent-free space in three locations within the Prefectural Government Building, which is the common property of the people of the prefecture. The area occupied totals 263.49 square meters. The cost to the prefecture does not stop merely at the forgone rent and parking charges. All ancillary expenses have been covered by the taxes paid by the residents of Nagano Prefecture, including electric power, air conditioning and heating, cleaning, gas, water, sewerage, and even the salaries of the clubsf administrative staff. Estimates put the total cost as high as 15 million yen per year. We must rethink this expenditure.

  It is the individual journalist who must stand at the center of all kinds of reporting activities. This is the foundation of a society with a responsible approach to information and the press.

The three rooms housing the press clubs will be vacated by the end of June of this year. In the room on the third floor where the Prefectural Government Press Club is currently located, we shall set up a Press Center open to all citizens active in the media fieldwhether they write for mainstream periodicals, limited-circulation publications, Web-based journals, or any other media channeland to freelance writers as well. This room has an area of about 194.40 square meters and will have staff permanently stationed in it. Copy, fax, and similar services will be provided at cost. We will have a plentiful supply of small writing desks on hand. The facilities will also be available for residents of Nagano Prefecture to hold press conferences on a reservation basis. In addition, the second-floor space (30.24 square meters), where the Prefectural Government Specialist Newspapers Press Club is currently located, will be used as a work room, and will also be outfitted with writing desks.

  Twice a day on weekdays, at 10:45 and at 16:30, press releases will be posted in the Press Center by the Policy Affairs and Secretariat Office, and questions regarding the releases will be answered. Copies of the releases will be available free of charge to anyone desiring them. When necessary, department and division chiefs and other officials will attend the press conferences to give additional explanations of the information provided. I will also give supplementary presentations when necessary. Nagano Prefecturefs gubernatorial press conferences, which were previously held under the auspices of the press clubs for whatever reasons, will henceforth be held under the auspices of the prefecture.

As far as I am aware, Nagano and Tokyo are the only prefectures where the governors hold a press conference every week. The Nagano press conferences frequently last over an hour. I have never yet refused to talk off the cuff to reporters, whether in my office, or anywhere else in the Prefectural Government Building, or on outside visits. And my attitude on this will not change

My weekly governorfs press conference, the time of which will be announced ahead of time as in the past, shall be made open to all people active in the media field. The format will be changed to include a question and answer session. However, questioners will have to state their name. As with the press releases referred to above, the content of the press conferences will be published on the prefectural Website. We will also be updating the video clips on the site. I will consider introducing a procedure for reporters to register to receive notification of urgent press conferences on natural disasters and other emergencies or to receive explanatory materials; this registration will be as simple as writing contact details on the application form. 

This ends my declaration of departure from the press club system. I sincerely hope that this declaration will become a new gNagano modelh for the further expansion of Nagano Prefecturefs residentsf right to know. I shall decide on further details on the basis of open discussions with reporters of all kinds.

The continued existence in Nagano Prefecture of press clubs as fraternal groups with voluntary membership is a matter for their member companies to decide. I have no intention of interfering in any way.

 May 15,2001

Yasuo Tanaka
Governor of Nagano Prefecture

This declaration was made by Governor Tanaka at a press conference called by Nagano Prefecture on May 15. Click here for details of the question and answer session that followed the declaration. (Japanese only)

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