Photo/IllutrationIsoko Mochizuki of the Tokyo Shimbun speaks about her experiences as a reporter. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

A government spokesman on Feb. 7 denied there was any intent by the prime minister's office to restrict the right of the media to ask questions, despite it issuing a document criticizing a reporter for doing so.

Yasutoshi Nishimura, a deputy chief Cabinet secretary, made the denial at a news conference in place of Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who was answering questions in the Diet.

Isoko Mochizuki, a reporter for the Tokyo Shimbun, touched upon the document issued by the public relations section of the prime minister's office that called on members of the press club covering the office to "jointly share" in the awareness of the seriousness of the issue of reporters asking questions based on a misunderstanding of the facts.

A question from Mochizuki on Dec. 26 concerning work to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, to the Henoko district of Nago, also in the prefecture, touched a raw nerve with the Abe administration.

She asked about spreading red soil runoff at the landfill site, which the government said was not based on facts and the comment might spread a mistaken understanding to both domestic and international audiences.

At Nishimura's news conference on Feb. 7, Mochizuki said the document was "a form of psychological pressure on me and my company" and asked what the intent of the document was.

Nishimura responded, "I received a report from the head of the public relations section that there was absolutely no intent to restrict the asking of questions or to limit the (public's) right to know."

Nishimura was also asked what the government's recognition of the issue was and what it planned to do about it.

He only responded, "I hope that there can be a constructive exchange" of ideas.