Asahi Shimbun President Masataka Watanabe held a news conference in Tokyo on Dec. 26 in response to a recent report by a third-party committee that examined past Asahi coverage of “comfort women.”

“We will sincerely implement the wide-ranging recommendations (contained in the report),” Watanabe said.

About 120 individuals representing about 60 media organizations attended the news conference.

In addition to Watanabe, Executive Editor Yoichi Nishimura and Satoru Takada, who serves concurrently as board director in charge of public affairs and director of the Office of the President, attended.

In special coverage published by The Asahi Shimbun in 1997, no comprehensive assessment was made of errors in articles that dealt with testimony by the late Seiji Yoshida, who said he had forcibly taken away Korean women during World War II. Instead, the Asahi presented its view regarding “coercion” on comfort women, saying it “was a violation of their ‘freedom of their own body.’”

The third-party committee criticized that stance as “switching the focus of the discussion” on the comfort women issue.

Watanabe said. “We sincerely and seriously accept that criticism.”

He further explained: “There is various debate regarding comfort women both within Japan and in the international community. We want to continue our news reporting while lending an ear to people of every possible standing.”

In response to a question about whether the Asahi held the view that the former imperial Japanese military forcibly took away women in a systematic manner, Nishimura said, “We want to continue with multifaceted news reporting that closes in on the actual state of affairs of the comfort women issue, including the issue of coercion.”

Questions were also asked about the Asahi’s explanations to the international community.

Watanabe indicated that coverage in a continuous manner by a planned group for the comfort women issue and related reporting would also be transmitted in English and other foreign languages.

Nishimura said the report of the third-party committee was being translated into English, adding, “We want to present it to international organizations and the foreign media.”

Questions were also raised at the news conference about the relationship between company management and the news department.

“There may be occasions when the judgment is made that management will be seriously impacted, leading to involvement in the news department by company management,” Watanabe said. “I believe that in such cases, there will be a need for an entity that can serve an advisory role to determine how the decision to become involved is viewed in the eyes of outsiders.”

Regarding that entity, Watanabe said, “No decision has been made on the specifics, but we want to design a framework immediately and establish the entity as soon as possible.”

Some reporters also raised points about the Asahi’s tendency to undertake excessive “campaign journalism,” a trend known in Japanese that places the spotlight on certain issues in reporting.

“It is only natural to begin information-gathering by holding a certain awareness of what the issue entails,” Watanabe said. "However, it is also very natural to revise that awareness during the course of information-gathering. We will present articles by conducting fair information-gathering that is based on facts.”

Watanabe added, “I do not believe that reporting that only ties together facts that are advantageous to our position can be described as campaign journalism in the pure sense of the term.”

He also said, “There will be a need for every individual employee at the Asahi to heighten their awareness and change.”

Watanabe was also asked about the role of journalism.

“Through journalistic activities, a better tomorrow is created and a better environment is left for future generations,” he said. “Our responsibility will be to fulfill such a role as well as to firmly record history.”

He also said, “We will further strengthen our efforts in investigative reporting and fulfill our responsibility while expanding the range of issues that are dealt with.”