NHK censored TV show due to ‘political pressure’

The Japan Times

NHK altered its 2001 documentary on a mock tribunal over Japan’s wartime sexual slavery before it was aired because of “political pressure” from senior lawmakers in the Liberal Democratic Party, the TV program’s chief producer said Thursday.
News photo
NHK producer Satoru Nagai mops away tears during a news conference at a hotel in Tokyo.
“We were ordered to alter the program before it was aired,” Satoru Nagai told reporters in Tokyo. “I would have to say that the alteration was made against the backdrop of political pressure.”
The program originally included footage of a mock trial held by civic groups in December 2000. The “verdict” found the late Emperor Hirohito, posthumously known as Emperor Showa, guilty of permitting the sexual slavery.
Historians say Japan sent as many as 200,000 women — many from the Korean Peninsula, which was then under Japanese rule — to frontline brothels that served Japanese soldiers. Japan called the sex slaves “comfort women.”
This segment was substantially cut before NHK aired the program.
“It is obvious that it was altered to gain consent from Mr. Abe and Mr. Nakagawa,” Nagai said, referring to key LDP politicians. “I believe (NHK) President Katsuji Ebisawa was aware of everything.”
On Jan. 29, 2001 — the day before the program was to be aired — senior NHK officials met with Shinzo Abe, who was then deputy chief Cabinet secretary, and LDP lawmaker Shoichi Nakagawa, Nagai said, quoting his superiors.
Nakagawa, the current trade minister, was then head of a Diet group that was discussing what to do about history textbooks that were beginning to mention wartime atrocities committed by Japan during its aggression in Asia.
Nagai said he was told at the time by a senior NHK broadcasting bureau official, who had just met with Abe and Nakagawa, to immediately alter the program. The LDP pair had reportedly learned about the program’s contents before its scheduled broadcast, he added.
Nagai said he was specifically ordered to delete the verdict from the mock trial, as well as the testimony of the former sex slaves.
“(People involved in the production of the program) opposed the revisions, but we were told to do it under orders,” Nagai told the news conference. “Several days later, I learned from one of my seniors that (the NHK executives) had met with Mr. Abe (before the broadcast).”…
This from Mainichi Shimbun on the same subject, and further below, some online discussion about censorship and history in Japan.
NHK producer says political intervention was ‘constant’
A chief NHK producer in charge of a 2001 program on Japan’s sexual slavery during World War II said Thursday that workers were forced to edit the program because of political pressure and that political intervention at NHK was “constant” under the system built up by NHK President Katsuji Ebisawa.
Mainichi Shimbun
NHK producer Satoru Nagai wipes away tears during his news conference in Tokyo on Thursday.
“We were forced to edit the program under pressure from politicians. NHK allowed the political intervention,” the chief producer, Satoru Nagai, said in a news conference in Tokyo.
“Outspoken cases of political intervention like this are rare, but since the establishment of the system under President Katsuji Ebisawa, political intervention has been constant,” Nagai said. “President Ebisawa ought to have received a report about this problem and understood it. The president and executives should all resign.”
It is unusual for a whistle-blower who is still working to come out and hold a news conference.
In December last year, Nagai requested that NHK’s compliance commission, the body that handles whistle-blowing within the broadcaster, conduct an investigation into the incident. He reportedly decided to hold a news conference because one month had passed without any investigation being conducted.
Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Shoichi Nakagawa and former Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe reportedly summoned Takeshi Matsuo, then executive director-general of broadcasting, over the program, which featured a mock trial on the Imperial Japanese Army’s use of “comfort women” during World War II, Nagai said.
Nagai, 42, said the program was almost completed on the evening of Jan. 28, 2001, two days before the scheduled broadcast. However, shortly after 6 p.m. the following evening, Matsuo approached him and said, “We’re going to change the program. Show it to me.” He then took the rare move of viewing the program with Naoki Nojima, an NHK executive in charge of Diet affairs at that time, and program production official Ritsuko Ito.
Part of the mock trial that said the emperor bore responsibility was subsequently cut, and comments from well-informed people criticizing the mock trial were increased, according to Nagai.
Then on Jan. 30, the day of the broadcast, another order was given to cut testimonies from former “comfort women,” the term used to refer to sex slaves during the war.
NHK officials maintain that the program was edited based on an independent decision. But Nagai contradicted the statement.
“In response to the second revision order, in particular, everyone there at the time was opposed, including the section head,” Nagai said.
NHK admitted that the program had raised a stir when various Diet members heard about it, but said this had not affected the impartiality or fairness of the program.
Explaining his reasons for holding the news conference, Nagai said he needed to state the truth.
“Holding the news conference might be disadvantageous for me. For four years, I worried about this, but I decided that I had a responsibility to state the truth,” he said with tears in his eyes.
Both Abe and Nakagawa have denied pressuring NHK to edit the program. (Mainichi Shimbun, Japan, Jan. 13, 2005)
The following comments were made in a discussion on the NBR Japan Forum:
“As most of you know by now from the news, a whistle-blower, who is a chief producer at NHK, has claimed NHK in 2001 bowed to political pressure from LDP officials (Abe and Nakagawa) by cutting out material from a program. The program was about sex slaves and a mock trial that found Emperor Hirohito guilty of war crimes. This happened while the Diet was deliberating the NHK budget for the coming year.
In watching the commercial media take up this issue, I perceive an
attempt to turn this into more NHK-bashing. In reality, the government should be taken to task for this illegal interference. But how can that happen, with the LDP firmly in power, and a media all too eager to stomp on their publicly funded rival?
The public, meanwhile, will find another excuse not to pay their
monthly NHK fees, when their wrath should really be directed at the politicians they continue to put in power.

John, Tokyo
These from the same string:
Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Shoichi Nakagawa on Thursday
categorically denied having applied political pressure regarding a 2001 NHKtelevision program on a mock tribunal on Japan’s wartime sex slavery.
NHK had two lengthy segments dealing with this on the morning news.
Notonce was it mentioned that the issue involved the issue of the
so-called comfort women. Indeed, only those with the sharpest ears would have caught the one quick reference to a mock trial dealing with the issue of wartime crimes against women carried out as part of Japanese government policy.
I cannot recall a more blatant case of fiddling the news and diddling
the viewer than this. The NHK treatment of this issue makes even the
narratives of the Society to Create New Textbooks look like veritable muckraking.
From William in Fukuoka:
This story could prove to have considerable staying power, as NHK is
demanding a correction from Asahi, which is standing by its story. Trade minister Nakagawa, meanwhile, is threatening to sue for libel. List members may be interested in a couple of links describing the background of the incident in more detail.
Lisa Yoneyama, a prominent academic in the field of WWII memory and
redress issues, was a principal in the January 2001 mock trial for wartime forced prostitution. She was angered enough to start a protest petition that is still archived on the H-Net Japan site:
Yoneyama went on to write an article called “NHK’s Censorship of
Japanese Crimes Against Humanity,” in the Winter 2002 issue of Harvard Asian Quarterly:
Most list members are well aware that LDP heavyweight and potential
next prime minister Shinzo Abe is the grandson of Nobusuke Kishi, who
served as prime minister between 1957 and 1960, after doing three years in Sugamo prison as a convicted Class A war criminal.
Kishi is one of those figures who keeps popping up in my current
research on the Chinese forced labor redress movement. He was minister of commerce and industry in the wartime Tojo cabinet, which approved the resolution resulting in the kidnapping and subsequent slave labor in Japan of 40,000 Chinese men. As point man for the industrialization of Manchuria, Kishi was also deeply involved with the nuts-and-bolts implementation of the forced labor policy.
Fast forward to the late 1950s. The rehabilitated Kishi is now prime
minister and there are persistent calls, from the Chinese side and
progressive Japanese quarters, to repatriate remains of some of the nearly 7,000 Chinese who died in Japan and to erect memorials. Government officials shift into “denial and coverup” mode, insisting that no records (namely the 1946 “Foreign Ministry Report” listing victims’ names, places of abduction, dates of labor and companies served) exist anymore.
The purpose of the concealment / destruction of records was to ward off any lingering potential for war crimes prosecutions, as well as to avoid demands for compensation from the Chinese government, relations with which would not resume until 1972. The official “no records exist” fabrication also enabled the Japanese government to maintain, quite outrageously and right up until 1993, that the Chinese victims were contract laborers who voluntarily came to Japan.
Then comes another NHK connection. In May 1993, someone connected to
the Tokyo Overseas Chinese Association passes NHK a dusty copy of the
long-suppressed Foreign Ministry Report and NHK runs the story. (In fact, last year’s Fukuoka High Court ruling, now being appealed to the Supreme Court, referred to this “NHK scoop” as a key element in determining time limits for the filing of victims claims.) On August 14, 1993, NHK runs a 60-minute special called “The Phantom Foreign Ministry Report: Record of Chinese Forced Labor.” (In Japanese, “Moboroshi no Gaimushou Houkokusho – Chuugokujin Kyousei Renkou no Kiroku,” with an NHK book by the same name.)
The 1993 NHK documentary was straightforward and fact-based, which is
to say extremely damaging to the government’s disingenuous position.
Today, redress proponents would love to see a rebroadcast of the important program, but have been told (informally, I suppose) by NHK that it’s not going to happen. With conservatives setting the agenda these days, 2005 is clearly not 1993.
All of this is to note that when discussing WWII-related topics, NHK is not much different from Japanese society at large: it’s a lot safer and easier to stick to domestic “victim mentality” stuff than to wade into the more self-critical areas of Japanese war responsibility. It will be interesting to watch how NHK portrays the slew of 60th anniversary commemorations. Heavy on Okinawa in June and the A-bombs in August, I would wager; much less regional or historical context.
Finally, a recent noteworthy book on the topic of Japanese media
self-censorship is “A Public Betrayed: An Inside Look at Japanese Media Atrocities and Their Warning to the West,” by Adam Gamble and Takesato Watanabe (Regnery, 2004).
The book has chapters entitled “Whitewashing the Nanjing Massacre” and “Attacking Former Sex Slaves.” Related to a separate recent list topic, there’s also a chapter called “Anti-Semitism in a Country without Jews,” dealing with things like Holocaust denial in Japan.
And from Earl:
I’ve been working my way through news reports on this issue and
reviewingrecordings of Sunday morning talking heads programmes in which this was an issue (not on NHK, by the way). A few very, very general observations

For a society in which foreigners are repeatedly told that Japanese
communicate by non verbal expression (so-called haragei), it seems that when challenged, the party line becomes, “Well I didn’t explicitly say cut[we weren’t explicitly told to cut] the segment that begins nn minutes mm seconds into the programme, therefore there was no pressure exerted.”
Too bad Kurosawa is still not making films. This flap looks like a
contemporary version of Rashomon with N! (N factorial) versions of the “truth” N being composted of NHK management, the NHK union, the NHK producer of the programme, N+1 politicians, N+1 newspapers, etc.
Further, this “truth” seems to change by the hour, if not by the minute.
When NHK first broadcast its denial (I am not guilty of the heinous
crime that I’m not going to name in this news broadcast. Proof that I’m not guilty is demonstrated because my diary does not show my guilt and all the friends I’ve asked say I’m not guilty, at least not guilty as charged.), it left the impression that any meetings with politicos that might have theoretically influenced the content of the programme, the subject of which we dare not mention, took place after and not before the broadcast.
Yet, today, we get this.
[Shinzo] Abe has admitted he met with NHK officials a day before the
program was aired Jan 29, 2001, and told them the program was “biased,” he said his action ws not unlawful. “I was asked to give my opinion and told them to be fair, as the law says,” Abe said.
I cannot speak for Japanese and as an American my haragei skills are
doubtless not up to the level of those of native Japanese. But, I
worked in radio broadcasting in the US for nearly a decade both in the commercial and non-commercial sector. If a major sponsor or a state legislator with oversight on your budget suggests a programme is “biased,” you don’t say, “**** off!” You go immediately into damage control mode and see what you can do to keep them happy without appearing to have completely sold your soul.

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