Thursday, January 13, 2005

Japan NHK TV 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
LDP political pressure and that political intervention at
NHK was "constant" under the system built up by NHK
President Katsuji Ebisawa.

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

NHK officials maintain that the program was edited based
on an independent decision. But Nagai contradicted the

"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

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)

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