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Lawyer: Filming protesters by Tokyo police unconstitutional

Protesters take to the streets in Tokyo
Protesters take to the streets in Tokyo (NHK)
TOKYO (TR) – Youths in Japan are no longer accused of being apolitical. Many are taking to the streets on a regular basis to tell Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that they oppose his proposed reinterpretation of the pacifist Constitution that would allow for the nation’s troops to support allies overseas in battle. Police, at least in Tokyo, are openly filming and photographing the faces of these kids.

One Tokyo-based lawyer, Yukihiro Oguchi, says the police have no right to be snooping on the kids. He believes that when the police point their cameras into the faces of protesters, they are violating the very document the government wishes to reinterpret.

“Filming these protests is inconsistent with article 13 of the Constitution,” Oguchi told Bengoshi Dotcom. That article states that, “All of the people shall be respected as individuals. Their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness shall, to the extent that it does not interfere with the public welfare, be the supreme consideration in legislation and in other governmental affairs.”

Police, however, seem largely indifferent to such claims. Rather than following the Constitution, they appear to be looking to snap who they can under claims that they are doing their job.

Oguchi, however, points out that none of the provisions for taking photos and video of people fit the bill at the protests. Images of people can be taken without their consent if: (1) there is a crime being committed; (2) there is an urgent need for evidence; or (3) such shooting can be done without permission.

Police fulfill none of these conditions, according to Oguchi. “Those in front of the camera can tell the police to stop,” he says.

However, he points out that police will make excuses for not doing so, claiming to be looking out for crime or keeping a record of demonstrations. Such excuses are rubbish, according to Oguchi. “Joining demonstrations is not a crime, so why are the police filming? Those videos and photos can’t even be used as evidence in investigations.”

Oguchi says protesters being photographed or filmed by the police should try to take countermeasures, such as raising their hands in front of the camera lenses to cover their faces.

“Whenever fundamental human rights are violated, people need to raise strong objections,” Oguchi says. “It is important that we do not just give them up.”