Asahi Shimbun President Masataka Watanabe issued the following statement on Dec. 22 in response to a report by a third-party committee, chaired by Hideki Nakagome, which looked into the newspaper's coverage of the "comfort women" issue:

Today, we received a report from a third-party committee concerning our company’s coverage of comfort women. We take this report seriously as it is based on objective review and points out various problems with the way The Asahi Shimbun operates.

With regard to the series of actions we took concerning our reporting on comfort women, we not only undermined your trust in our company but also injured your trust in newspaper reporting as a whole. I again express my deep apology. We deeply regret having created a situation that is not allowed for any media organization. Realizing that we are in a serious crisis, I pledge to go ahead with reforms with a strong determination to reconstruct The Asahi Shimbun from its foundations.

The problems are clear.

We repeatedly quoted the late Seiji Yoshida’s testimony that he forcibly took away Korean comfort women in Jeju Island during the war, and did not retract those articles even after strong suspicions surfaced that his statements were fabrications.

Reporters in charge had strong preconceptions and we neglected to conduct sufficient news gathering to back up the articles. It is the result of our failure to face criticism squarely that we left the false reports uncorrected for so many years. I think that we lacked humility. Above all, it cannot be said that we were loyal to the duty of recording facts.

The management’s responsibility is serious. With regard to our special coverage in August on our past reporting of the comfort women issue, while management was involved in the reporting of the editorial division in charge of submitting articles as a crisis management issue, it erred in deciding to not apologize in spite of the fact that we retracted articles concerning the Yoshida testimony.

The postponement of publication of Akira Ikegami’s column that pointed out that “if you found mistakes, you should also apologize” was also a case of wrong judgment made by the top management, which stuck to the policy of “we will not apologize.”

The report pointed out that “the management’s intervention in (the reporting of) the editorial division should be minimum and limited.” Excessive involvement by the management in our editorial operation resulted from inward-looking characteristics that put priority on the company’s circumstances. The key principle of offering fair and accurate articles to readers was left on the back-burner.

I will promote reform to eradicate such “characteristics” from our operations and to change our awareness. Humbly listening to your voices, we will reflect diverse opinions in our newspaper.

We will review our reporting and checking system to ensure that our reporting is thoroughly fair and accurate. We will also rebuild the system to heighten transparency by making the relations between the management and the editorial operation clear. I will also consider having people from outside in our checking system.

As I just received the report today, I have to spend time to examine some of the challenges that we, as a newspaper, face. After compiling the view as The Asahi Shimbun, and drawing up measures to respond, I will explain them by holding a news conference on Dec. 26. I will do my best to implement the measures promptly so as to recover your trust in our company.