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LDP pressure led to cuts in NHK show

A program on a mock war-crime trial was revised.

The public Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) apparently caved in to the demands of two conservative politicians and drastically revised a 2001 program dealing with sexual violence in World War II.

Footage of a mock trial that found the emperor responsible for the Japanese military's sex-slave system was cut. And parts of the testimony given by a former ``comfort woman'' from China were also omitted.

The edited version has led to a lawsuit. But The Asahi Shimbun has learned that two members of the Liberal Democratic Party-Shoichi Nakagawa, minister of economy, trade and industry, and Shinzo Abe, acting LDP secretary-general-were the ones who prompted the revisions.

The chief producer of the program has asked NHK to conduct an internal investigation into whether the politicians interfered with public broadcasting.

The program was part of a four-part series broadcast in January 2001 on NHK's educational channel. The series dealt with wartime sexual violence and war crimes trials.

The program shown on Jan. 30, 2001, featured a mock trial held by a Tokyo-based women's group in December 2000. The Women's International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan's Military Sexual Slavery was hosted by VAWW-NET Japan (Violence Against Women in War-Network Japan).

The program was the brainchild of a production company subcontracted by NHK. The original 44-minute program was completed two days before broadcast and approved by the head of educational programming.

On the afternoon of Jan. 29, the day before the program was scheduled to air, Nakagawa and Abe demanded meetings with Takeshi Matsuo, then executive director-general of broadcasting, Naoki Nojima, an NHK director-general in charge of relations with Diet members, and other NHK executives.

At that time, Nakagawa was head of a committee of young Diet members concerned about the content of school textbooks.

Abe was secretary-general of that committee and also deputy chief Cabinet secretary.

According to sources, Nakagawa and Abe apparently were aware of parts of the program planned for broadcast. They asked that the ``one-sided'' program not be shown and that it be made into a more fair and objective one.

``If you can't do that, cancel the program,'' Nakagawa was quoted as saying.

One NHK executive who attended the meetings said: ``That was the first time we were ever called out beforehand for an educational program. I felt pressure.''

In the evening after those meetings, another NHK executive told workers making final adjustments to the program to alter the contents.

The reasoning was that the opinions of politicians could not be ignored when the government budget for NHK for the next fiscal year was being discussed in the Diet.

Moreover, Matsuo and Nojima viewed the program before broadcast, an unusual move for executives at their level. After they viewed the program, Matsuo and the other NHK executives requested changes to the program, including increased time allotted for criticism of the mock trial. Parts of the mock trial were deleted, including the verdict that found the sex-slave system constituted a crime against humanity for which Emperor Showa was responsible.

The editing did not end there. A few hours before the program was scheduled to go on air, more orders were handed down to cut testimony of the former ``comfort woman.''

In the end, an abbreviated 40-minute version of the program was broadcast.

VAWW-NET Japan filed a lawsuit over the changes. The Tokyo District Court ordered the production company to pay compensation, but it did not find NHK executives responsible for any wrongdoing.

Nakagawa acknowledged to The Asahi Shimbun that he met with the NHK executives. ``I only said what was natural,'' he said. ``While anyone is free to hold a mock trial, it is not fair for a public broadcaster to show such an event.''

Abe said: ``I told them the reporting had to be neutral, that opposing views had to be introduced and that there was a need for a neutral distribution of time (to the two sides). I only said what I had to as a Diet member. It was different from political pressure.''(IHT/Asahi: January 12,2005)


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