Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) and two ruling party politicians flatly denied allegations that the public broadcaster substantially altered a program about Japan's wartime sex abuse because of ``political pressure.''
The denial came after an NHK whistle-blower told reporters Thursday that Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers Shinzo Abe and Shoichi Nakagawa demanded NHK revise the program before it was aired in 2001.
``There was no such fact that the program contents were altered under the political pressure of Mr. Abe and Mr. Nakagawa,'' said Akiyoshi Sekine, NHK's executive director-general of broadcasting.
In a statement released Thursday, Sekine said NHK executives met with Nakagawa on Feb. 2, 2001, three days after the program was aired on Jan. 30, not before the broadcast.
He admitted a meeting with Abe took place on Jan. 29, but said officials only ``briefed (Abe) on the program's concept and purposes.''
NHK offered the same explanations in its news programs Thursday night after Satoru Nagai, a producer who oversaw the program, accused NHK President Katsuji Ebisawa of allowing political interference.
A senior NHK official had also told The Asahi Shimbun earlier that NHK executives met the two politicians on Jan. 29 and were told ``not to make one-sided reporting.''
The program, on a mock war tribunal held by citizens groups, was revised, with testimony by a former ``comfort woman'' from China omitted.
Reversing his earlier comments, Nakagawa, now the trade minister, said Thursday that NHK officials met him Feb. 2. He denied he pressed NHK to alter or cancel the program.
On Monday, before The Asahi Shimbun broke the story, Nakagawa admitted he met NHK executives the day before the broadcast. ``NHK said it would change this and that, but would still air it, so I said, `No,''' he told the newspaper then.
However, on Thursday, Nakagawa said in Paris, ``My Tokyo office found through all-out efforts that I discussed the program with NHK officials only after the broadcast.''
He said the officials came to explain NHK budget requests and he told them the program apparently lacked fairness.
Abe, now acting LDP secretary-general, said in a statement Thursday reports that he summoned and pressed NHK officials to alter the program were ``totally wrong.''
NHK protests AsahiNHK on Friday handed a written protest to The Asahi Shimbun that said the newspaper's reports ``distorted facts'' and thereby damaged the broadcaster's credibility.
The newspaper stood by its reports, saying it repeatedly interviewed the lawmakers, NHK officials and others.(IHT/Asahi: January 15,2005)