The Asahi Shimbun independently obtained a copy of the "Yoshida Testimony" at a time when the central government had not yet released the document compiled by the government's Investigation Committee on the Accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Stations of Tokyo Electric Power Co. The first article about that testimony appeared in the morning edition on May 20, 2014.
The article reported that "about 650 TEPCO and other workers, or 90 percent of the total number who were at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant on the morning of March 15, 2011, four days after the Great East Japan Earthquake, went against the order by plant manager Masao Yoshida to wait for further instructions and withdrew to the Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant 10 kilometers to the south."
While introducing the comments made by Yoshida, the article drew the lessons of the severe accident and called on the central government to release the entire document.
However, as a result of a detailed internal examination, the judgment was made that it was a mistaken article that gave the impression that many TEPCO employees had abandoned the plant because it reported that they had "withdrawn against the order," which was based on an erroneous appraisal made in the course of reading and trying to understand the Yoshida testimony.
We retract the article that reported they had "withdrawn against the order," and we also offer deep apologies to readers and those at TEPCO.
In line with this, Nobuyuki Sugiura, who is in the highest position of responsibility in the news department, will be relieved as executive editor. Disciplinary measures will also be taken for others involved in the matter.
Of course, I cannot avoid responsibility as the top leader in charge of management. I seriously consider the situation a crisis because it is not limited to the article in question, but it has greatly damaged the trust of our readers in the company as a whole.
I will make a prompt decision on whether I should resign after I play a leading role in setting the course toward revitalization of the company through a drastic reform centered on the news department.
During that time, I will return my entire remuneration as president.
If the Asahi had not reported on the Yoshida testimony based on its independent information-gathering, the contents of that testimony would likely have never been known by the public. Because we felt there was a major significance in bringing the matter before the public, it is extremely painful that the reporting contained erroneous contents.
At the present time, we believe the reason lies in such overlapping factors as the assumptions held by those involved and insufficient checking of the article. We will set up at an early stage a committee centered on the new executive editor to work toward regaining trust and revitalization. From all possible perspectives, the panel will bring to light the various problems that arose in the information-gathering and reporting and study what is now required to regain the trust of our readers with the resolve to start again from zero.
At the same time, I have asked the Press and Human Rights Committee (PRC), an internal third-party organ of The Asahi Shimbun, to conduct an examination of the effects that were brought about because of the erroneous article. I will ask the panel to conduct its examination in a prompt manner, and we will present the results in the pages of the Asahi.
I also want to explain our coverage of comfort women for which various issues have been pointed out and for which we have received criticism.
In the Aug. 5 morning edition's special coverage titled "Thinking about the comfort women issue," the Asahi retracted articles based on testimony judged to be a fabrication that was provided by the late Seiji Yoshida about forcibly taking away comfort women from Jeju Island, South Korea.
We made that decision on the thinking that in order to look squarely at the comfort women issue, which has as its themes the dignity and human rights of women during war as well as overcoming and reconciliation of past history, we had to admit to past errors in Asahi reporting on the issue and to advance our original arguments seeking to construct relationships of mutual trust with neighboring nations in Asia. There is absolutely no change in our standing on that point.
However, we have received criticism for the lack of words of apology even though the articles were retracted. While we did say we "reflect on the fact that there was insufficient information-gathering to support those articles," I now painfully realize that we should have taken a more humble approach as a journalism that strives to provide reporting based on facts.
I apologize to our readers for publishing erroneous articles related to Seiji Yoshida as well as for the failure to issue the correction earlier.
Regarding our coverage of the comfort women, we will set up a new third-party organ apart from the PRC that consists of experts outside of the Asahi, such as lawyers, historians and journalists. We will ask the panel to conduct a thorough examination, based on the voices of doubt that have been submitted to the Asahi, and look into such issues as the process behind the writing of the past articles and the developments that led to the correction; the appropriateness of the latest special coverage; and the effects that Asahi's reporting on the comfort women had on the international community, including Japan-South Korea relations. We will ask this panel to also conduct its examination in a prompt manner, and we will present the results in the pages of the Asahi.
Investigative reporting such as the Yoshida testimony as well as reporting that focuses on negative aspects of past history, such as the comfort women issue, can only be made possible with the deep trust of our readers in the articles appearing in the Asahi.
We will use the latest situation as a major lesson and will listen humbly to various opinions and criticism. We will return to our original intent and reconstruct a reporting stance that emphasizes accuracy of the articles above all.
I ask all of you to strictly watch over our future efforts in such matters.