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2014 February 12 - 18 [CIVIL RIGHTS]

NHK losing its ‘political neutrality’

February 14, 2014
Akahata “Current” column

NHK’s morning TV drama series, “Gochisosan,” depicts a local radio show aired in Osaka during the Pacific War. It received a letter from a listener whose son decided to volunteer for military service after listening to the story of three brave soldiers. This must have been a common scene in Japan during the war.

During the war, the public broadcaster’s predecessor worked as an organ to promote national policies and inculcate patriotism in Japanese citizens. It reported the Imperial Army’s “retreat” as “strategic anabasis” and “defeat” as “honorable defeat”. News reports they broadcast were all provided by the Domei News Agency, the government’s official news agency.

In his book, Yanagisawa Yasuo, who joined the wartime broadcaster in 1938, later recalled as follows: “We were only waiting for news reports coming from the Domei News Agency and the results of censorship by the Communication Ministry. We had no autonomy. This was not an independent news agency in any sense.”

Based on remorse over the role played in wartime broadcasting, the Broadcast Law established after the war stipulates the political neutrality of broadcasting. It requires broadcasters to contribute to a healthy development of democracy as their responsibility.

As their publicly-made remarks have provoked outrage, NHK’s new President Momii Katsuto as well as new members of the NHK Board of Governors Hasegawa Michiko and Hyakuta Naoki have already failed to fulfill this responsibility. Akahata’s Sunday edition on February 16 features controversial remarks made by these senior NHK officials and the increasing influence Prime Minister Abe Shinzo tries to have on the public broadcaster.

In the article, a correspondent of a German daily paper said that if they were in Germany, they would lose their jobs right away. As he warned that Japan is isolating itself more and more from the rest of the world, this is not just a domestic issue.

Past related articles:
> Hyakuta and Hasegawa pose threat to NHK neutrality: ex-NHK director (February 6, 2014)
> NHK governor praised rightist’s 1993 suicide (February 6, 2014)
> NHK governor: Nanjing massacre never happened (February 5, 2014)
> NHK chair justifies Japan’s wartime sex slavery system (January 26, 2014)
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