Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 October 2017, 08:56 GMT

Internet Under Surveillance 2004 - Japan

Publisher Reporters Without Borders
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Reporters Without Borders, Internet Under Surveillance 2004 - Japan, 2004, available at: [accessed 18 October 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
  • Population: 127,478,000
  • Internet users: 57,200,000 (2002)
  • Average charge for 20 hours of connection: 17 euros
  • DAI*: 0.75
  • Situation**: good

The Internet has grown very fast in Japan, which is famously keen on new technology, and broadband access is one of the cheapest in the world.

The Japanese constitution strongly protects freedom of expression, but the government has agreed to be a relay point in Asia for the huge US online spying network Echelon. Disclosure of this caused an uproar in Japan but it died down in 2003 as criticism switched to the government's major battle against the online exchange of files of copyrighted material.

Ferreting out illegal immigrants

The justice ministry set up a website in February 2004 for people to inform the authorities of suspected illegal immigrants. Human rights groups denounced this as encouraging xenophobia, but the government said it would keep the site going.

New law on message privacy

There is no specific law protecting message privacy but the government proposed one in December 2002. It was strongly criticised by press freedom organisations (especially as it only applied to salaried journalists and not freelances) and was eventually dropped by parliament. The government came up with a new version in February 2003, this time including freelances and saying clearly that the government must respect freedom of expression.

International Convention on Cybercrime

Japan was one of the first signatories, in November 2001, of the International Convention on Cybercrime, which was instigated by the Council of Europe and signed by the then-15 EU countries, as well as Canada, the United States and South Africa. It was fiercely attacked by Internet experts, who called it anti-freedom and interfering, as well as encouraging a new era of generalised surveillance. Five countries (Estonia, Hungary, Albania, Croatia, Lithuania) have ratified it and it will come into force on 1 July 2004. The Japanese parliament began debating its ratification in March 2004.


* The DAI (Digital Access Index) has been devised by the International Telecommunications Union to measure the access of a country's inhabitants to information and communication technology. It ranges from 0 (none at all) to 1 (complete access).

** Assessment of the situation in each country (good, middling, difficult, serious) is based on murders, imprisonment or harassment of cyber-dissidents or journalists, censorship of news sites, existence of independent news sites, existence of independent ISPs and deliberately high connection charges.

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