We are seeing the gradual spread of circumstances that are very regrettable from the standpoint of freedom of speech and expression. Some theaters are moving to exercise self-censorship by not showing The Cove, which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. From the time of its completion, there have been arguments for and against the content of this film. In preparation for distribution in Japan, the Japanese distributor worked to resolve legal issues that had been pointed out, and then the company announced plans to show the film nationwide.
However, after protests by certain groups, some movie theaters have already decided to cancel planned showings so our members and the public are being robbed of the opportunity to actually see and think about this film. Furthermore, the situation has deteriorated to the extent that showings have even been cancelled by universities, which are supposed to intrinsically be bastions of free expression.
Just about two years ago, movie showings and lectures were being cancelled because of protests similar to those we are seeing today. At that time, the Japan P.E.N. Club responded by issuing a statement and also holding film showings.
I would like to once again say that we should all be open to hearing opinions that differ from our own, and we need to protect opportunities for such opinions to be expressed. Moreover, to those public-use facilities (including movie theaters and universities) that provide venues for such opinions to be heard, I say this: Please continue to work hard to provide screening opportunities and do not yield to the pressure being applied.
This is necessary so we do not end up with a stifling and closed society.
Takashi Atoda, President
The Japan P.E.N. Club
The Japanese Center of International PEN