Lawyers' League for the Freedom of the Press and the Expression

APPEAL  February 4, 2005


APPEAL

  To:
  Mr. Shinzo Abe (Deputy Secretary General of the Liberal Democratic Party)
  Mr. Shoichi Nakagawa (Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry)
  NHK (Nihon Hoso Kyokai)

  "The issue of editing of NHK’s program under pressure from politicians" could seriously damage the freedom of press and the freedom of expression that are the basis of democracy.
  We, lawyers of Japan, urgently make an appeal against Mr. Shinzo Abe, Mr. Shoichi Nakagawa and NHK today.

  The NHK’s program in question covered a citizen trial of the Japanese military’s use of sex slaves during the War, namely “The Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal” held in Tokyo from 8th to 12th of December 2000. NHK broadcasted the program on 30th of January 2001 under cooperation of production companies.
  So-called comfort women issue had not been judged even by the Tokyo Far East trial that the allies opened just after World War K.
  The citizen trial was held with worldwide cooperation to clarify the facts and make a legally rightful judgment.

  The aim of our appeal is not to discuss assertions made in this program.
  Instead, we intend to point out that the fact that the contents of this program were edited under political pressure is a serious threat to our society.

  It is the basic principle of democracy that "the decision of a nation is to be made up of decisions of citizens."
  We, as citizen or the main character of sovereignty need accurate information about various matters that are occurring in the world to form our intention.

  And information from news media that have great power to collect data and to report news widely is essential in an information-oriented society as today.
  If news contents are to be edited under political pressure in news media, the rulers will be able to control citizens.
  If a fair expression or a fair reporting is regulated, and truthful information is not given to citizens, rulers can win an election easily and can make a law to regulate expression and news more easily. Once the process where decisions of its citizens formed and reflected to its own government is damaged, the process cannot be recovered.
  This is why freedom of press / freedom of expression are esteemed as extremely important fundamental human rights.

  We must say that political pressure to the program did exist judging the process of editing of the program..
  In other words (1) Both Mr. Abe and Mr. Nakagawa are central members of "Coalition of Members of the Diet concerned about the Future and History Education of Japan" (107 of the member of the Diet are members of this group. Mr. Nakagawa, representative, Mr. Abe, former secretary general). The meeting has made powerful objections against taking up comfort women issues in history textbooks, and has published books to spread their policy (cf. their website).
  We recognized that the contents of the program reported to the Diet members beforehand, and Mr. Abe said that "I heard that the program was terrible." Both of them admitted that they knew the program contents before it went on air (cf. 13 January morning edition of Mainichi Shimbun and Tokyo Shimbun).
  (2) Upper executive officers of NHK, Takeshi Matsuo, senior chief of the broadcasting bureau, Ritsuko Ito, chief of the program production bureau, and Naoki Nojima, chief of the bureau in the charge of Diet met Mr. Abe, Mr. Nakagawa and had opportunities to explain the contents of the program.
  (3) The VTR of the program of the international tribunal was edited to 44 minutes just enough length to fit the schedule of the program the day before it went on air.
  (4) When Mr. Matsuo and Mr. Nojima talked together with Mr. Abe on the same day, Mr. Abe said that "I want you to broadcast just and fair.”.
  (5) NHK executed a preview of the VTR in front of the senior chief of the broadcasting bureau after the conference with Mr. Abe for the first time on the same day. Then NHK cut the part of the VTR in which the Japanese government and the Emperor was found responsible about comfort women, and the VTR became one minute shorter.
  (6) Next day, 30th of January, on the day the program was to be aired, NHK cut the part of the VTR which contained interview of Chinese former comfort women and so on, so the VTR became three minutes shorter. NHK broadcasted the program for 40 minutes although the frame of the program was 44 minutes.
  (7) Ms. Ito and Mr. Nojima talked together with Mr. Nakagawa, and Ms Ito explained their purpose and their aim of the program to Mr. Nakagawa.
  These are the approximately indisputable facts among the relevant persons.

  It is being argued whether Mr. Nakagawa had a meeting with NHK persons before the program was aired, but Mr. Nakagawa delivered his statement on January 12 to the media that “I pointed out that NHK should broadcast justly and neutrally. I did not put political pressure not to broadcast the program" after the scoop of the Asahi Shimbun January 12 morning edition (cf.Tokyo Shimbun, Mainichi Shimbun, Asahi Shimbun).
  In other words, just after the big news of Asahi Shimbun January 12, Mr. Nakagawa admitted he did ask for "fair neutrality" in terms of the program before it was broadcasted.

  It is a big problem that then deputy chief cabinet secretary (Mr. Abe) or Diet members of ruling party who has decisive influence to the government, comment on a TV program content to a broadcast station, especially to NHK which depends on the government for their financial base. It is understandable that a remark of a politician works as a pressure without abusive language.
  It is common sense that when two politicians hold a meeting with NHK and deliberately gave their comments to NHK on purpose, their actions are to be considered as infringements of freedom of press / expression.
  We must seriously doubt whether they are competent as democratic politicians if they cannot understand that such an act is considered as political pressure.

  When NHK expressed that giving explanation to a politicians prior to broadcasting was part of their routine, they showed that their relation with politicians is far from being strained.
  When NHK, which is a news medium, take giving explanation about pre-aired program to a politician as granted, and regulate themselves’ independently or unnecessarily to change contents of a program without any concern for rights of other people such as honor and privacy, NHK is violating citizens’ right to know.
  Moreover, we cannot avoid to have an impression that NHK yielded it self to pressure of politicians when we judge from the process of editing of the program.
  We think that such actions of NHK conflicts with its basic mission as news medium.
  We request that Mr.Shinzo Abe, Mr. Shoichi Nakagawa and NHK reconsider their professional positions and missions and to re-evaluate their actions.

  February 4, 2005
  Lawyers' League for the Freedom of the Press and the Expression