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Abe administration openly critical of Asahi Shimbun

Posted November. 03, 2014 05:13,   


The Abe administration’s attacks on a certain media outlet have gone too far, watchers are criticizing en masse.

The Shinzo Abe administration’s target is the Asahi Shimbun, a leading liberal newspaper in Japan. On the eruption of a political fund issue involving Democratic Party of Japan Secretary General Yukio Edano, Asahi reported in Thursday’s morning edition, “Prime Minister Abe stated ‘we should not attack (the opposition party) with this incident’ while eating meal with his aides.” The remarks could have been interpreted as indicating that while ministers of the Abe Cabinet have struggled due to political fund scandals, the opposition party’s chief secretary has been caught for the same issue, and therefore let’s not raise issue with this case. His aides conveyed his remarks, and major Japanese newspapers, including Sankei, Yomiuri, Mainichi, and Nihon Keizai, all reported the remarks.

Even so, Prime Minister Abe pointed only at Asahi at the House of Representatives’ budgetary committee on the day, strongly criticizing the daily by saying, “This is fabrication. The Asahi Shimbun’s chief editor reportedly said in the past that the newspaper’s primary goal is to dismantle the Abe administration.” He said on Friday, “I have never said we stop attacking. (The newspaper) is setting on fire a thing that is not in flames. My frank feeling is that it is fabrication.”

When media organizations criticized his administration’s railroading of the Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets en masse in February, Abe claimed, “I heard that Asahi is adopting as its corporate goal ousting of the Abe administration.” Back then, Asahi said his claims were absurd.

It unusual that a prime minister of a country continuously makes emotionally charged criticism targeting a certain media outlet. Mainichi said in an editorial in Sunday’s issue, “We are even worried that the prime minister, who criticizes media due to sudden anger, will be able to make cool-minded decisions on various agendas including domestic politics and diplomacy.”

Abe’s hostility towards Asahi stems from differences in their views on liquidation of past history, including comfort women (sex slaves) exploited by the Japanese military during World War II. Some say that his antipathy stems from personal resentment to the daily. A retired veteran journalist in Japan said, “Prime Minister Abe judges that the Asahi Shimbun was at the center of the forces that spearheaded a campaign to ‘oust Kishi,’ when then Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, his maternal grandfather he admires, pushed ahead with the revision of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty in 1960.”

Dispute between the two sides got fiercer in 2005. Asahi reported on January 14 that year, "Prime Minister Abe pressured NHK and deleted a certain portion of a special documentary on comfort women in 2001." Abe immediately claimed that it was fabrication, and cursed the daily, saying, “It will take the same path as mammoth (that went extinct).”

As the prime minister took the lead in attacking a specific media outlet, right-leaning media organizations and people are scrambling to openly label Asahi as a traitor and national thief. Weekly current affairs magazines even identified the real names of Asahi reporters who wrote articles on comfort women, as if instigating people to launch terror attacks on them. Watchers say that recent delivery of white powder to and threatening of a bombing attack on a university, where a former Asahi reporter is working, is also related to the situation.