Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's troubles in 2018 owe much to Japan's resilient liberal media. Between 2011 and 2017, the media was mostly on its back foot, losing credibility over its initial coverage about the Fukushima nuclear accident and withstanding heavy-handed efforts by Abe's government to pressure and intimidate the media into self-censorship (Kingston 2018a). Since early 2017, however, the liberal Asahi newspaper led the way in exposing two cronyism scandals involving private-school projects linked to Abe. It also exposed a series of cases revolving around information disclosure practices that revealed a culture of deception aimed at avoiding government accountability. These included a cover-up at the Defense Ministry regarding a Peace Keeping Operation (PKO) in South Sudan that violated legal constraints imposed by the Diet, and revelations about doctored data used to support Abe's proposed labor reforms. In these and other cases, the government's lack of transparency and mishandling of documents drew sharp public criticism. The press played its role of informing the public about these apparent transgressions while highlighting the arrogance of power that has undermined public trust in Abe; 80 percent do not believe his self-exonerating explanations about the cronyism scandals (Bloomberg 2018). Nonetheless, in September 2018 he won reelection to a third term as Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) president and is set to become Japan's longest serving prime minister. Popular support, however, is tepid, as monthly polls since 2013 by Japan's national broadcasting organization (NHK) indicate that about 50 percent of the public supports him due to a lack of alternatives rather than his virtues as a leader (about 15 percent) or the appeal of his policies (about 15 percent). Despite mixed reviews in the press, he has won a series of elections, and in politics that is what counts (Kingston 2018b).

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