The logo published by Number 1 Shimbun ©Getty Images

A group of journalists has hit out at both the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan (FCCJ) over the removal of a parody emblem that depicted the Olympic logo as the coronavirus.

The FCCJ published the image on the front cover of the April edition of its monthly publication for members, Number 1 Shimbun, but removed it after anger from Tokyo 2020 who called it "insensitive" and said it breached copyright laws.

Eleven journalists have now released a statement criticising how the matter was handled.

"The Tokyo Olympic Organising Committee has asked the FCCJ to delete its parody of the logo, and reportedly threatened to sue for copyright infringement if their demands were not met," it reads.

"The front cover served as a commentary on the deep relations between the spread of the coronavirus and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. 

"Parody is one valid way of speaking truth to power.

"Since 1945 the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan has been organised on the principles of freedom of the press. 

"As our articles of association put it 'the objectives of this Association shall be…to defend the freedom of the press and the free exchange of information'.

The original Tokyo 2020 Olympic logo ©Getty Images
The original Tokyo 2020 Olympic logo ©Getty Images

"The demand of the Tokyo Olympic Organising Committee to delete its parody of the 2020 Olympic logo from the internal club magazine was, therefore, entirely unacceptable from the outset.

"The undersigned journalists are appalled by the fact that the club authorities did not meet their responsibility to defend freedom of the press, which was their most sacred duty.  

"By their words and actions, they have undermined free expression in Japan and emboldened the enemies of democratic debate."

Those who signed the statement included Michael Penn of Shingetsu News Agency, where the letter was published.

Jake Adelstein of The Daily Beast and former managing director of Number 1 Shimbun Steve McClure are also among the 11 signatories.

Former FCCJ President Steven L Herman also signed the letter.

The coronavirus crisis has forced the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics until next year.

"We are also deeply disappointed in the Tokyo Olympic Organising Committee for launching this controversy in the first place," the statement continues.

"It seems a shallow attempt to deflect criticism of the many scandals surrounding the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, including bribery allegations, skyrocketing costs, and conditions that put athletes in danger. 

"The Olympics are supposed to be an international celebration that features the best in the Japanese nation, and not the venue for exaggerated notions of wounded pride and demands for media censorship.

"Japan can do better, the FCCJ must do better. 

"As working press in Japan, we fully support the necessity of freedom of expression, including the use of parody and fair use as a vehicle for social commentary and criticism such as that represented by the Number 1 Shimbun cover."

According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Japan ranks 66th out of 180 nations on the 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

RSF reports that foreign and freelance journalists are often discriminated against due to the establishment of reporter clubs, while the Government has the power to sentence whistleblowers, journalists and bloggers to up to 10 years in jail for publishing information deemed illegal by the nation's laws.