Crisis of Asahi and Japanese Journalism
Professor, Waseda University (Media and Journalism Studies)
Language: The speech and Q & A will be in Japanese with English interpretation
On September 11 this year, the Asahi Shimbun retracted a "scoop" article based on the testimony of Mr. Masao Yoshida, the deceased former manager of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant at the time of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the subsequent triple meltdown of the plant's nuclear reactors.
The article, published on May 20, 2014, based on the leaked testimony of Yoshida, said workers at the Fukushima Daiichi disobeyed Yoshida's order to stay at nearby locations, and instead, they fled to the Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant, about 11 kilometers away.
The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, however, decided to release the testimony, which had been designated as "confidential" by the government committee which investigated the accident and questioned Yoshida. And the released testimony revealed Yoshida's account that he was happy with the workers' decision to evacuate to the Fukushima Daini although it was not directly in line with his order.
After the the revelation, Asahi's rival newspapers, especially the Yomiuri Shimbun and Sankei Shimbun began harshly criticizing Asahi for distorting facts for the purpose of dishonoring TEPCO and its workers. Even Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga publicly expressed regret about the Asahi article. Coming under fire, Asahi on September 11 retracted the article and disciplined the two reporters who wrote the article, on November 28.
But a citizen's group consisting of some well-known journalists, scholars, artists and lawyers believe that the article was neither fabricated nor distorted, and the Asahi should never have retracted the article.
They say the Asahi knew they did not make factual errors but simply could not withstand the barrage of criticism from the right wing media, who were unhappy about another Asahi controversial article related to "comfort women." Whatever the reason may be, they say, retracting a news article by the major newspaper publisher - not because of factual errors but because the government and some right-wing media did not like it- can create a very serious precedent and chilling effect, and thus it cannot be tolerated.
This group sees in the situation a clear and serious threat to the freedom of the press. Representatives from the group want to address the importance of standing up to unreasonable "bashing" by the government and right-wing forces on the media, and protest the Asahi's decision to retract the story and discipline the reporters.
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