Friday, January 14, 2011

Scenes from a Toxic Marriage between Tokyo Media & Politics

Tonight (January 14th) press conference from Prime Minister Kan at the Kantei was an other awful description of how some of the Japanese journalists assigned at prime minister Kan or at the Kantei are nothing but really full of themselves. During the Q&A some of them shouted to Mister Kan in saying: "You do not answer to the question, I asked you this etc..." On 2 or 3 occasions I thought there was an intention to push him to end the conference. The tone was improper and it is not journalistically acceptable.

But the issue here is that, as usual, these self proclaimed local media people ask the same questions and want an answer for their Editor in chief, eventually for their readers and do not always have the intelligence or the professionalism to understand the progression of answers and questions.

I emceed and anchored hundreds of events with guests and I admit that I rate Naoto Kan and his PR staff with 3 stars for this handling of the press conference given after his cabinet reshuffle in spite of the aggressions disguised in questions as seen during the conference nationally broadcasted.

The worst is that the message of Kan is not conveyed to the public. An other consequence of the cheating system imposed by the "kisha club system".

Most interesting would be if someone at Kantei could dispatch an exact copy into English of the exact session held on this including the Q&A ? I imagine the result will show that indeed some at the Sankei, Yomiuri or Asahi have not at stake the situation of the country but simply care about their little vanity or ratings. In any case a good reason not to buy their paper regarding the account of Kan's government part II. At a time when crucial realism is expected, who can trust these parodies of journalists?

Needless to say that we were half a dozen foreign journalists invited to attend this prime minister conference and to ask questions, and, after the conf' we 3 or 4 of us all had the same perception of the aggressive tone of the Japanese reporters. Is it a new trend, one of us asked? It looked very amateurish.


What is it behind the media war between public, media and Japanese politicians? Rating? Conformism? Money? All. Not necessarily informative debates are offered to viewers as planned by PR departments and tough guys who pose as media. Still today in Japan, local & national journalists continue to gamble with truth or financial interest of dark origins.

Sometimes the "war" is intense not to reveal the fact and offer the links of understanding to their audience. Nothing of that sort in the west? Not what I mean, but democracies favor transparency. Conformism or fear of extreme authority? (for instance read Nietzsche on individual power theory).

I remember the strange collaboration of some Japanese TV stations with authorities, gangs or dangerous sects (Aum sect for instance), or the lack of questioning as long as the kisha club has not given the green light. We have had a good example during the Sumo scandal recently.

Still there are people who work as useful idiots or worst as advocates of such bullying methods. I therefore found this insightful article from the Mainichi most interesting as it is revealing practices of bullying in the other medias, in politics and in social network spheres. Mainichi is certainly one of the best if not the best newspaper in Japan for reporting without an --arrogant--attitude.


Prime Minister Naoto Kan appeared on Hodo Station, a popular news program on TV Asahi, as a guest on Jan. 5. Usually, a TV program draws attention from viewers when an incumbent prime minister appears.

At the same time, BS11 was airing its talk show, "Inside Out," in which ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) heavyweight Ichiro Ozawa appeared as a guest. A close-up of Ozawa's face was projected on a huge screen in the satellite broadcaster's studio while Prime Minister Kan and anchorman Ichiro Furutachi appeared on another small screen nearby.

"The network (TV Asahi) invited the prime minister to its program to face off against us," a staff member of Inside Out said. It was later revealed that some DPJ legislators were instructed by the prime minister's office to watch Kan on Hodo Station -- in other words, not to see Ozawa.

No wonder Kan harbored a feeling of rivalry against Ozawa as he declared at his first news conference of the year that he will urge Ozawa to step down in an apparent bid to prop up the popularity of his own administration.

Read the story here:

Japanese version, quotes:


 その時たまたま、衛星放送局BS11のスタジオで、前日ビデオ収録した対談番組「インサイドアウト」のオンエアに立ち会っていた。大きなモニターにゲストの小沢一郎・民主党元代表の顔。周囲の小型モニターには他局の映像が流れている。あれ? 首相が古舘伊知郎キャスターと並んで映っているぞ。



Have a good coffee!

Sources, Mainichi and Reporter's notes


  1. The Kantei translation of the press conference is up:

    Of course it doesn't contain shouted questions that went unanswered and the like. My company does these translations from time to time (not this one, though) and we wait for the official Japanese transcript to come from the Kantei, rather than working from the text as we heard it directly.

  2. @ Durf. Thank you very much for the link, indeed the translation is very hum...hum... "clean." As you wrote accurately the translation does not reflect nor contain the tension, the shoutings and the rough tone of some of these medias salary-men addressed to the Japanese prime minister, Mr Naoto KAN. But what we can confirm with the text provided by you is that Mr Kan repeated what the audience --who was allowed to ask questions only in Japanese-- did not hear, did not understand or chose not to understand.

    I think in other democracies, these media employees (should we call them journalists all of them?) would be removed from the president or prime minister accredited press. Motive: incompetence to say the least.

  3. Anonymous9:48 AM

    I think we also have to look at our own garden. The foreign correspondents. It is now an established fact that within this group of a couple of hundreds of journalists (~ 350 foreign and locals), there's a substantial amount of inappropriate personal abusing the "generosity" of the authorities to obtain a status. These people receive a status that they do not deserve in press clubs or associations. A lot of them never been hired in the past by formal company and used their status to gain privileges (especially currently at the FCCJ) or conduct business which can't be branded as "bona-fide" journalism. Rather public relation or trade activity. (Chambers of Commerce, Institutes, etc.) Especially since China caught a lot of world attention (and we have to analyze one day what exactly is reported from China), it's been drying foreign media resources out of Japan. Some went out of journalism and work for private firms and it remains that only a few % of their income actually originates from journalism.

  4. Thanks all.

    Feel free here to write about media in Japan (local of foreign correspondents).

    I made it a freedom of press territory.

    I see that Facebook archived and registered this "Scenes from a Toxic Marriage between Tokyo Media & Politics" blog article... Carry on boys.


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