Asahi Shimbun President Masataka Watanabe apologized again on Dec. 26 in response to a recent report issued by a third-party committee that criticized past Asahi coverage of the "comfort women" issue.

Watanabe spoke at a news conference in Tokyo to address the issues raised by the third-party committee report issued on Dec. 22.

"I would like to once again extend my heartfelt apology to everyone," Watanabe said.

He also presented a statement that outlined his views.

"We will engage in reform in order to once again obtain the trust of readers as a media organization that is beneficial to society," he said.

In response to questions from reporters, Watanabe said about the third-party panel report, "Fundamentally, we are of the opinion that it has pointed out a number of points critical of the Asahi."

He added, "Regarding the comfort women issue, there is domestic debate as well as debate within the international community. Because either aspect is only one part of the comfort women issue, we will continue with information gathering, including whether coercion was involved (on the former comfort women), in order to obtain a clearer overall picture."

The report touched upon special coverage by the Asahi in 1997 about past comfort women coverage and said, "Without acknowledging that it had played up in a major way 'coercion in the narrow sense,' the Asahi switched the focus of the discussion by emphasizing the existence of 'coercion in a wider sense' by following the rationale of the Kono statement."

Watanabe said, "We seriously accept the criticism that the Asahi switched the focus of the discussion. Our standpoint is to engage in serious information-gathering on the issue of coercion."

Some members of the third-party committee touched upon the tendency of the Asahi to place the spotlight on certain issues in its reporting, a trend known in Japanese as "campaign journalism."

In response to that criticism, Watanabe said, "While I believe there is a need for campaign journalism, I also feel we are called upon to be fair and to be faithful to facts. I feel that the manner in which campaign journalism is conducted is also an issue of the awareness held by reporters. I believe there is a need to exchange views with those who hold different opinions as well as to create an arena in our paper for the interaction of various views."

The third-party committee report also pointed out that the lack of an apology in the special coverage in August 2014 was "a mistake by company executives."

The report also concluded that the postponement of a column by journalist Akira Ikegami was "a decision made effectively by former President Tadakazu Kimura."

Watanabe said, "Regarding the report, Kimura himself has said he accepts it, including those parts pertaining to him. Our stance is to also accept the report and to sincerely implement (the proposals contained in it)."

Watanabe was also asked about the relationship between company management and the news department.

"Management has absolutely no intention of getting involved in the news department on a regular basis," Watanabe said. "However, some involvement may arise when the judgment is made that there will be a major impact on management. I believe there is a need to create an entity that would act as an adviser and to which inquiries can be made about how such involvement appears to someone outside the company."