Other Media Outlets Are Greatly Responsible for Permitting the Asahi Shimbun’s Reckless Actions

Seiji Fuji

Purposefully printing large articles that have no social significance on the front page

Newspapers are referred to as a public institution of society. For that reason, they must report in a correct way from an impartial, neutral standpoint to defend the citizens’ freedom and right to obtain knowledge. Yet this has not applied to the Asahi Shimbun newspaper. The Promised Day: Essays on Shinzo Abe by Eitaro Ogawa contains a portion of a dialogue between political commentator Hisayuki Miyake and Yoshibumi Wakamiya, editor in chief of the Asahi Shimbun:

Miyake: Asahi seems to enjoy bashing Abe, but can’t you report in a way that admits to his good points as well?
Wakamiya: No.
Miyake: Why?
Wakamiya: It’s our company policy.

Apparently, Asahi’s company policy is to continually criticize specific politicians on purpose. Accordingly, one must say that the Asahi Shimbun is not a public institution of society, but a propaganda institution for a certain ideology. The newspaper’s mistaken reporting on the forced transportation of comfort women and the Yoshida Report regarding the Fukushima No. 1 accident have finally and clearly exposed the true nature of this propaganda.

It also read:

I recall that an article entitled “APA’s Representative Guides Judging and Participates in Grading to Award Tamogami’s Essay the Highest Score” was printed in large letters on the top of the front page of the Evening Edition of the Asahi Shimbun on December 1, 2008. It read:

Toshio Tamogami (age 60), former chief of staff of Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force, published an essay negating Japan’s aggression, for which he was dismissed. Regarding this issue, the judging process by APA Group (representative: Toshio Motoya), the organizer of the contest, has been clarified through testimony from several review committee members (including an acting representative). Motoya was in the position to know about Tamogami’s essay from the initial stage, and was involved in the judging. His essay was the only one awarded the highest score. When three essays including Tamogami’s were given the same score, Motoya endorsed Tamogami’s. The article also included a comment by Shuichi Yamamoto, a secretary who attended

on behalf of Member of the House of Representatives Yasuhide Nakayama, who said during an interview that this essay contest could be seen as a way to provide a monetary award to Tamogami.

I did not know that Tamogami was participating until he submitted his essay. This article makes it seem like I awarded the Grand Prize (including three million yen in prize money) in an improper way; this is how the Asahi Shimbun has guided the public opinion. The essay contest was run by a private-sector company. A sufficient judging committee was established, headed by Shoichi Watanabe (Sophia University emeritus professor) and including Kazuo Komatsuzaki (president of the Hochi Shimbun), Nobuaki Hanaoka (guest senior staff writer at the Sankei Shimbun), and Yasuhide Nakayama (member of the House of Representatives and parliamentary vice-minister for foreign affairs, although he was arbitrarily represented by his secretary Yamamoto during the judging). The judging was fair and upright. After discussions, the three winners of the highest scores were awarded prizes: the Prize for Excellence in the Student Division went to a student, the Prize for Excellence in the Adult Division went to another person, and it was unanimously decided to award the Grand Prize (Fuji Seiji Prize) to Tamogami. As the organizer of the contest, how is it improper for me to share my opinions during this process? And first of all, what is the social significance of printing this article on the top of the front page of the Asahi Shimbun?

At that time, the Asahi Shimbun contacted me requesting an interview multiple times, and threatened me by saying, “Will you stubbornly hold a party to commemorate a prize being awarded to an essay that contradicts the government’s point of view?” In this way, it implicitly asked me to cancel the party. I said I would give my answer at a press conference on December 8.

The press conference I held after the awards ceremony for the 1st Annual “True Interpretations of Modern History” Essay Contest was attended by a huge number of media members including television stations and newspapers. Sure enough, an Asahi Shimbun reporter asked if I had participated in the essay judging even though I was not a member of the judging committee. I said, “I organized this contest, so it is only natural for me to participate in the essay judging by which prize money is awarded. Doesn’t the Asahi Shimbun president express his views when giving out prize money?” I received no response, and there were no other questions.

During the one-month period between the determination of the Grand Prize winner and the awards ceremony, newspaper, television, and weekly magazine reporters were waiting outside my home and office, creating quite an uproar. The promoters of the party to commemorate the winners included ambassadors from 10-odd countries, dozens of National Diet members, university professors, and commentators, for a total of more than 100 people. Each promoter was contacted night and day by people who said, “This is Shukan Asahi. Why are you promoting a party to commend an essay that contradicts the government’s point of view?” When they responded, the same questions were posed by AERA or the Asahi Shimbun. Reporters even went to Ishikawa Prefecture, my birthplace, to ask my classmates and neighbors from when I was a child about what kind of person I was. Then, they bashed me terribly in their reports. A major uproar took place when the Tokyo police told me they had received death threats targeted at me and said they would serve as bodyguards. One after another, the promoters contacted me to pull out, so I had no choice but to organize and promote the party myself.

Tamogami was asked to retire, which he refused to do. He said, “If it was wrong of me to state that Japan was a good country, then I should be disciplined and dismissed.” After Tamogami was demoted and dismissed according to the mandatory retirement age system, he was invited as a witness to the House of Councillors. This made many citizens angry, and Tamogami was regarded as a hero.

The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was defeated in the election after that, becoming the opposition party. Thanks to this, Japan has begun waking up and there is a trend of growing conservatism. Afterwards – partially because of the terrible Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) government – Abe (the standard-bearer of conservatism) was re-elected to the post of LDP president. The LDP won a great victory in the next election, and Abe was miraculously able to become prime minister for a second time.

Approval is required to write articles of different tones, by which slanted views are passed down

In this way, the Asahi Shimbun has constantly thought up its own stories and then concertedly printed articles that match with these stories as a type of campaign, by which it has intentionally guided the public opinion. It committed the most mistaken reporting of the century on the comfort women with a consistent stance that was rooted in the war guilt information program created after World War II. This series of reports, based on the testimony of Seiji Yoshida, was fabricated to reinforce the traditional claim that the Japanese Army had continually committed atrocities.

I recently responded to an interview request from Yukan Fuji, asking me about my reading of the Asahi Shimbun’s articles on August 5 and 6 verifying its reporting on the comfort women. This interview, entitled “APA Group Representative Motoya is Angry, Says he Won’t Advertise in the Asahi Shimbun” was featured prominently on the front page of Yukan Fuji on August 15.

Twenty years ago, Yoshida said he had hunted for comfort women on the Korean Peninsula (for a full report, see my essay in the October issue of this magazine). The Asahi Shimbun knew this was a lie, but it did not amend its articles. Also due to the Tamogami incident and strange, anti-Japanese diplomacy by Korean President Park Guen-hye, many people have begun to desire the truth of the comfort women story. Tony Marano, nicknamed “Texas Daddy,” obtained a report about prisoners of the war held by the Japanese during World War II, dated August 1944 and kept in the American National Archives. According to the questioning of 20 Korean comfort women, they had plenty of money to buy what they wanted. They had fun participating in sports events with the officers and men, and also took part in picnics, concerts, and dinners. They also possessed gramophones. Would sexual slaves have earned so much money? The report said that, when thinking logically, it is clear what the comfort women were.

Due to these and other factors, the Asahi Shimbun accepted that it would not be able to evade this issue, which is why it put out the recent articles on its past reporting and admitted that it had published misinformation. This misinformation has caused astronomical losses to the nation. I said it is greatly responsible for the contempt shown to Japan and the Japanese people, and that I would not publish any ads in the newspaper until it apologized. This inspired a great response, and many different people agreed with me.

Finally, on September 11, Asahi President Tadakazu Kimura withdrew the May 20 article about the results of the questioning of Masao Yoshida, the manager of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, and held a press conference to apologize. The report of the questioning on the Fukushima No. 1 accident by the government’s Accident Investigation and Verification Committee was publically released on September 11, so I suspect the Asahi Shimbun made this decision in a great hurry. The September 12 Morning Edition of the Asahi Shimbun contained an article about the Yoshida Report. It read:

We have obtained the Yoshida Report, which the government had not released. The May 20 issue said that approximately 650 people – 90% of the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (TEPCO) employees – had disobeyed Yoshida’s order to stand by and had evacuated to the Fukushima No. 2 plant located 10 kilometers to the south. This was to give the impression that the employees of TEPCO – the company that caused the nuclear accident – were irresponsible people who disregarded an order from the plant manager and ran away to a safe location.

To take responsibility for this misinformation about the Yoshida Report, editorial duties were taken away from Executive Director Nobuyuki Sugiura. However, no one has taken responsibility for the 16 mistaken reports on the comfort women issue over a span of 32 years. After Wakamiya of the Asahi Shimbun – who said that bashing Abe is a company policy – retired, he was appointed as a visiting researcher at Seoul National University. In 2005, he wrote about his dream of handing over Takeshima to South Korea and having it renamed “Friendship Island.” The editing at this newspaper company was led by Wakamiya, the editor in chief who has been greatly criticized, but there are many individual reporters who are very talented. The reporter who visited me was highly capable. I asked him why the Asahi Shimbun reports with no doubts on things that are clearly ridiculous. He admitted that there are odd articles, but said the senior employees must approve articles that have different tones on a given theme. This made sense to me, and I realized this is how anti-Japanese propaganda is passed down. The Asahi Shimbun, as the leader of the anti-Japanese media, has put pressure on other media outlets by sending letters of protest and presenting court cases. All of these media outlets are afraid of protests from the Asahi Shimbun, so their articles have had stances that conform to Asahi’s. In this way, the Asahi Shimbun is also greatly responsible for the other media outlets.

The GHQ’s press code survives as voluntary restraints

Tamogami’s 2008 essay became a problem because it differed from the government’s views, but if you read the entire text you will see there are no issues at all. Tamogami merely insists that Japan was a good country – not an aggressor nation – based on historical facts. If this essay opposes the government’s viewpoint, then the government’s viewpoint is mistaken. I wanted to convey this to many citizens before Tamogami was called to the National Diet as a witness, so I tried to have the entire text of the essay printed as ads in several newspapers. All of the newspapers except the Sankei Shimbun turned me down. And because the Sankei Shimbun would receive an objection from the Asahi Shimbun saying that it was backing APA, I had to pay the list price for the ad instead of the regular unit price that had already been arranged.

When the ad was finally printed on the day of Tamogami’s invitation to the National Diet, we received unceasing faxes and telephone calls from that morning, all of which were messages of support for Tamogami. I called Tamogami’s mobile phone as he was on his way to the National Diet to tell him this, and encouraged him to be open and aboveboard like the last samurai. Perhaps this helped Tamogami have an extremely dignified attitude at the National Diet. Many supporters backed him, and afterwards he has been very busy giving speeches and writing. This year he ran in the Tokyo gubernatorial election and received 610,000 votes. He has also established the Japan Genuine Conservative Party.

Politicians are afraid of the media outlets (including the Asahi Shimbun); they go along with the views of the media and have even done horrible things in the past such as releasing the Kono and Murayama Statements. The main culprit behind this is the news media, but the background to this issue includes the press code that was proclaimed on September 15, 1945. It started when Ichiro Hatoyama stated in the Asahi Shimbun that the atomic bombs were a war crime that violated international laws, and the Asahi Shimbun was punished by not being allowed to publish for two days. The GHQ then released the following 30-item list of prohibited items:

1) Criticisms of the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP) or GHQ
2) Criticisms of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East
3) Criticisms of the GHQ’s drafting of the Constitution of Japan
4) References to the censorship system
5) Criticisms of the United States
6) Criticisms of the Soviet Union
7) Criticisms of Great Britain
8) Criticisms of Korean people
9) Criticisms of China
10) Criticisms of other allied nations
11) Criticisms of allied nations in general (even with no specific country)
12) Criticisms of the treatment of Japanese people in Manchuria
13) Criticisms of pre-war political measures of allied nations
14) References to World War III
15) References to the Cold War
16) Propaganda advocating for war
17) Propaganda of Japan as the “land of the gods”
18) Militaristic propaganda
19) Nationalistic propaganda
20) Propaganda for the Greater East Asian Co-prosperity Sphere
21) Other propaganda
22) Justification of or advocacy for war criminals
23) Discussions of occupation soldiers and Japanese women
24) The black market
25) Criticisms of the occupying army
26) Exaggerated claims of starvation
27) Incitement of violence and improper actions
28) False reports
29) Improper references to the GHQ or regional military governments
30) Publication of unreleased information

This press code was invalidated by the Treaty of San Francisco that came into effect in 1952, yet it still impacts Japan today via voluntary restraints imposed by the media and led by the Asahi Shimbun. Because criticisms of Korea are prohibited, the media cannot protest to South Korea regarding the comfort women story. And because criticisms of China are prohibited, it has not been able to refute fabrications such as the claim that 300,000 people were massacred in Nanking.

The postwar media system has been revolutionized through “Asahi’s 9/11”

In 1989, the Asahi Shimbun damaged a coral reef and then fabricated a story about it, saying the photograph showed a reef that had been damaged by a thoughtless diver. At that time, the president took full responsibility upon himself and resigned. The recent incident is entirely different; it caused a significant loss to Japan’s national interests and also strikingly injured the honor of the Japanese people. This could not be atoned for by the president’s resignation or the dismantling of the company. I think the other media outlets, which wrote articles with the same tenor because they were frightened of objections from the Asahi Shimbun, should also engage in serious reflection. The Asahi Shimbun’s attitude made a 180-degree change in 1945 when it was banned from publishing, and it should take this recent incident as an opportunity to transform itself into a decent newspaper company.

Japan will change when the Asahi Shimbun does, and this public apology could be called “Asahi’s 9/11.” Afterwards, I suspect efforts will be made to protect the company and take responsibility for these things by having President Kimura step down. However, this is so the successive generations of presidents and editors can get off clean in exchange for Kimura’s resignation, and should not be allowed. To change the current circumstances of the many anti-Japanese media outlets and cultivate a decent media, Asahi should be demolished and make a fresh start. The press code is an impediment to this end.

Even the Sankei Shimbun (the closest thing to a respectable newspaper) is still bound by the press code, and has not written articles about its existence. The Sankei Shimbun was the first newspaper to print the entire text of the press code in the postwar era, but it was in an APA ad. Of course, other newspapers and television channels have not mentioned the press code at all. Member of the House of Representatives Mio Sugita was the first person to raise a question about the press code in the National Diet, which the media mostly ignored. This is the fundamental problem with the media, and it has major impacts.

Only textbooks with warped views of history are accepted, which creates vast numbers of National Diet members with biased ideas. Regarding the handling of the Fukushima No. 1 accident as well, the media reports on the “highly contaminated water” as if it were extremely dangerous, but in the U.S. it could be used as drinking water. The Japanese standard is strange – for example, decontamination is performed even at places where the radioactive contamination is below the average worldwide background radiation – but the media doesn’t write about this.

The fundamental problem with the media is that not only does it write untrue articles, but – in the case of the Asahi Shimbun – it proactively makes false reports about the comfort women and Yoshida Report. As long as no definite proof to the contrary comes to light, these lies survive for dozens of years. The media outlets distort the truth to match their own assertions. It is also a problem that corporations and other parties still place ads in these propaganda papers. We should also think of making an official announcement regarding corporations that have run ads of five horizontal blocks or larger in the Asahi Shimbun, and immediately stop subscribing.

I was recently invited to the event commemorating the formation of The Party for Future Generations. It is composed of 23 National Diet members, and the lively party was attended by 22 members. The next day, I investigated multiple newspapers to see how the event had been reported on. I thought the Yomiuri Shimbun was the next conservative paper after the Sankei Shimbun. However, I saw that the Sankei Shimbun published a large article with a photograph entitled “Party President Takeo Hiranuma Holds an Event Commemorating the Formation of The Party for Future Generations, Focused on Protecting History, Tradition, and Culture.” The Nihon Keizai Shimbun had a small article with a small photograph that did not stand out much, entitled, “Formation of the New Party for Future Generations.” The Asahi Shimbun’s article was around 18 centimeters, was located towards the bottom, and had no photographs. But the worst was the Yomiuri Shimbun, which had a two horizontal block article of just 12 centimeters with no photographs near the bottom – it stood out not at all and was even smaller than the Asahi Shimbun’s article. This article made it possible to infer the future stance of the Yomiuri Shimbun (which I had thought was a conservative paper) regarding The Party for Future Generations. In fact, I felt like it was next after the Asahi Shimbun in a ranking of left-wing papers. Afterwards, reporting on the event commemorating the formation of the Japan Innovation Party was in the opposite order: the Yomiuri Shimbun had the largest article, followed by the Asahi Shimbun (they had extensive articles from the first to second page). The Nikkei Shimbun had a slightly smaller article on the second page, and the Sankei Shimbun a small article on the third page. These two articles show the stances of each paper.

The Asahi Shimbun has not taken responsibility, although on September 22 it enclosed a flyer reading, “We deeply apologize to our regular readers.” But it should not be apologizing to readers; I believe it should apologize to all of the people in Japan and throughout the world. I would also like to examine the responsibility of all media outlets that have colluded to guard the press code.

11:30 p.m., September 24, 2014 (Wednesday)