Tag Archives: press freedom

Recent threats against FOreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan (FCCJ) and the history of media intimidation

by Robert Whiting (reprinted with permission)

TOKYO — Over a recent early weekend, there were a series of threatening calls made in English and Japanese to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan. The caller threatened to blow up the FCCJ and to harm two journalist members, including Jake Adelstein (author of Tokyo Vice and host of The Evaporated podcast series) for being ‘anti-Japanese’ and one other journalist, who’s name has been kept out of the press at her request. The FCCJ contacted the police, who responded swiftly. They traced the caller and quickly arrested the individual responsible — a woman with extreme right-wing and nationalist views.

The FCCJ issued a statement of gratitude to the police and instituted security measures for both staff and members. The organization thanked the police for their prompt and efficient response.

The FCCJ, established in 1945, exists, the statement said, “to provide foreign correspondents and other journalists with broad access to news sources in Japan and overseas, to defend the freedom of the press and the free exchange of information, and to promote friendship, harmony, and mutual welfare in both professional and social relations among foreign and Japanese journalists … We will not be swayed by terrorism or threats.”

This is not the first such incident for the FCCJ. 

Longtime FCCJ member Mary Corbett remembers the Club received calls not to show ‘The Sun,’ the 2005 Russian film about the meeting between MacArthur and Emperor Hirohito, when no other theater would dare screen it, for fear of violence from right wing extremist over its portrayal of Hirohito.

Andrew Horvat, FCCJ president 1988-1989 had his own problems with ultranationalists, as he recalled in a recent e-mail:

When I was president in 1988/89 I also received threats from right wingers but they were cleverly worded so that the police could not take action as the threats were veiled but of course quite clear to both parties.

“One of our members, Bob Whymant, had written a piece on Emperor Hirohito, who at the time was on his deathbed. Whymant recalled in detail allegations against the emperor regarding his role in WWII that the Japanese right had found offensive. One of the national dailies contacted me for a comment and I naturally defended the right of foreign correspondents to raise issues of concern to their readers. (I said that even though I personally disagreed with Whymant’s piece.) After that came the cleverly worded messages from self-styled defenders of Japan’s honor. I believe I received more than one such message … One of mine encouraged me to pack up and return to my country. The message, however, came from an ultra-right group so it was quite obvious that they had other than my airline reservations in mind.

“In addition, you may recall the attempted murder at the Club of the Japanese translator of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. I was at this conference and saw Tokyo’s finest tackle the knife-wielding would-be killer to the ground, disarm him and remove him from the room in a matter of seconds. Unfortunately, the translator, Professor Hitoshi Igarashi was later killed apparently by an assassin responding to a fatwah. 

“The police promised to step up surveillance of the Club and I think they did increase their patrols but of course they were conscious that in a democratic society you don’t want to see uniformed police standing around at the entrance of a news organization.”

The FCCJ was not be the only target of extremists over the years; The Mainichi Shimbun was attacked by yakuza for publishing reports detailing their activities. In 1994, a 44-year old captain in the Tosei-Kai, a Tokyo based ethnic Korean gang, named Hiroji Tashiro stormed into the Tokyo headquarters of the Mainichi and fired three .38 bullets into the ceiling. Tashiro was upset with an article published by the Mainichi’s weekly magazine that described the Tosei-kai as “over the hill.”

In 1987, a reporter for the Asahi Shimbun Kobe office was shot and killed by a right wing extremist who was angered by a story the reporter had written which described Japanese discrimination against members of the Korean minority in Japan. Another employee in the office was injured in the attack. Typed letters were later sent by the assailant’s group claiming responsibility.

There are thousands of right wing extremists active in Japan, many aligned with underworld gangs, and are notable for the use of black buses and loudspeakers which they use to espouse nationalistic causes. A favorite target is the Russian Embassy in Japan protesting over the Kuril Islands and other territories seized by Russia after WWII had ended. In 1990, a right wing fanatic hit the mayor of  Nagasaki Hitoshi Motoshima in the back after the mayor stated that recently deceased Emperor Hirohito supported the war.  

The largest ultranationalist group is Nihon Kaigi, which has approximately 40,000 members, including many prominent political figures. Nihon Kaigi denies Japan’s war guilt and aims to revise Japan’s Constitution, Article 9 of which forbids the maintenance of a standing army, among other things.

The assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in July revealed the deep influence of the Unification Church on the Japanese conservative government, an anti-communist tool employed by the CIA/ KCIA/LDP alliance that helped shape post-war  politics in Japan. 

In the latest FCCJ episode, over the weekend of Dec. 10-11,  six separate calls were made in English and Japanese to the front desk reception.

Two days before the latest threats against the FCCJ, a press conference was held by Jake Adelstein and other reporters to announce the release of “The Evaporated”—a podcast about missing people in Japan.

Their articles are rubbish,” she said in one call, according to a source, “and they should leave Japan or go to Korea. “

Said another, “I am personally against FCCJ activities because it was established by MacArthur in GHQ,”and still another went,“The staff members at the reception desk should quit because the FCCJ is an anti-Japanese organization.”

Police were able to identify the suspect because recordings left on the front desk answering machine showed the phone number from which the calls had been made. Under questioning, the suspect said she did not actually intend to blow up the Club.

Says Adelstein of the recent threat, “If you don’t address social problems or recognize they exist, nothing changes. I love Japan and many Japanese people are hard-working, honest, and polite. That doesn’t mean the society doesn’t have problems, such as child poverty, gender inequality, discrimination against: the handicapped, women, foreigners, especially Korean-Japanese — powerful organized crime, nuclear dangers, staggering injustice in the legal system, repression of the free press, sexual assault on women with impunity for many assailants, rampant labor exploitation, death by overwork, and political corruption. Ignoring the problems doesn’t make them better. If people are offended by that, they should rethink their love of Japan.”

SOURCES, FURTHER READING

Whiting, Robert Tokyo Underworld, Pantheon, New York, 1999

https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%B0%8F%E5%B0%BB%E7%9F%A5%E5%8D%9A

Samuels, Richard (December 2001). “Kishi and Corruption: An Anatomy of the 1955 System.  Japan Policy Research Institute. 

https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/abe-murder-suspect-life-destroyed-mothers-religion-88880836

https://japantoday.com/category/politics/at-least-146-ldp-lawmakers-had-dealings-with-unification-church

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1qzsBteZffImA-i1SpSVvDUOFoOVUA_Pi3r6ifLpWt-E/edit

Weiner, Tim (2007). Legacy of Ashes. Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-385-51445-3.

https://howwelldoyouknowyourmoon.tumblr.com/post/147695217233/the-unification-church-and-the-kcia (Dr. Jeffrey M. Bale)

https://apjjf.org/2022/17/McGill.html

https://freepress.org/article/reverend-moon-cult-leader-cia-asset-and-bush-family-friend-dead#:~:text=The%20U.S.%20CIA%20was%20the%20agency%20primarily%20responsible,the%20U.S.%20intelligence%20agencies%20or%20the%20Korean%20government

 “Church Spends Millions On Its Image” by Michael Isikoff, The Washington Post, September 17, 1984; Page A01. (Wiki) https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/longterm/cult/unification/image.htm

https://apjjf.org/2022/17/McGill.html

HodoBuzz: New York-based Japanese Filmmakers Tackle Japan’s Sexism and Press Freedom With Crowdfunding

As Japan spiral downs the gender equality rankings each year with impressive speed(114th out of 144 countries), progress, on the other hand is being made at a snail’s pace in every corner of society.

But Japan’s death spiral towards the bottom isn’t just the status of women, it’s also with freedom of the press. Japan ranked 11th in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) annual world press freedom survey in 2010, this year (2018) it came in at 67.  The only reason it wasn’t lower was that under the influence of President Donald Trump, press freedom has taken a punch in the gut all over the world—Japan remains essentially just awful.  The media here has never been much of a watchdog, but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has turned much of the press into simpering lapdogs. NHK has become Abe TV thanks to political appointments.  Japan’s few investigative news programs have been cancelled or so neutered they no longer have bark or bite.

But what if….there were still some journalists, fighting the good fight. and what if, it was a woman?

A crowdfunded Japanese drama “Hodo Buzz” depicts a female reporter trying to get real news out while battling all the obstacles inherent in Japan’s media machine.

A new show “HodoBuzz” made by Japanese filmmakers based in New York City takes on these very topics and JSRC is excited to support and watch a show about Japanese people who aren’t afraid to speak the truth and champions a tenacious and outspoken woman(!) who will not be silenced.

Read on to learn more and support their fundraiser campaign!

Derrrrruq!!!, a New York-based Japanese filmmaking team, launched a Kickstarter campaign last month for its new journalism drama HodoBuzz. The campaign seeks to raise $30,000 by September 4th to complete post-production, release, and promote the show.

HodoBuzz Kickstarter Page

http://kck.st/2u8rx8o

The project will only be funded if it reaches its goal of $30,000 by Tue, September 4 2018 11:59 PM EDT.

The creators have a good reason as to why they had to turn to crowdfunding. The show focuses on issues that the Japanese entertainment industry tends to avoid discussing: media sexism and press freedom in Japan. You can check out the series trailer made for the Kickstarter campaign. Don’t forget to turn on the subtitles!

Link: https://youtu.be/TxRQt5vA83g

HodoBuzz is a story about Asuka Wada, a Japanese female reporter. Tired of sexism and objectification in Japan’s TV industry, Asuka quits her job as a game show host in Tokyo to pursue her long-time dream: becoming a news anchor. 

A Japanese version of The Newsroom would be a thrill to watch.

Asuka moves to New York City, the world’s leading journalism center, to work for HodoBuzz, a digital news company.

The first sensitive issue HodoBuzz deals with is the rampant sexism in the Japanese media. In Japan, female TV reporters are constantly objectified. They are often referred to as “joshi ana”, or “girl announcers,” whereas male reporters are called simply, “announcers”. Female reporters have to dress up in a way that entertains the male audience. It is not uncommon for some female reporters to be assigned sexually charged assignments, such as reporting from a beach in a bikini. However, the most obvious point regarding the sexism female journalists face in Japan is that hard news or more “serious” topics are almost exclusively reported by male journalists.

Even at HodoBuzz, which is based in New York, Asuka’s boss, colleagues, and several viewers underrate her skills, because of her past as a game show host. Asuka will experience intense online harassment and bullying, due to the belief that she was hired for her looks, not her abilities.

The second issue the show uncovers is the constant breach of ethical journalism standards in Japan. In HodoBuzz, characters discuss real news, cite actual political commentary, and refer to known false reports by existing Japanese TV networks and newspapers. This has never been done on a Japanese TV drama, due to the strong and complicated codependent relationships among the news industry, political parties, TV stations, sponsor companies, and major talent agencies.

The nature of HodoBuzz has made it very challenging for the creators to get enough investment and distribution support. And it’s safe to assume that HodoBuzz won’t get good coverage from Japanese legacy media, either. Due to the time-sensitive topics discussed, Derrrrruq!!! decided to turn to Kickstarter.

Kickstarter video Link: https://youtu.be/AuhIUjyFGUk

Their team name, “Derrrrruq!!!,” was inspired by the Japanese expression “the nail that sticks out gets hammered down”, which describes the conformist nature of Japanese society. Derrrrruq!!! aspires to be the nail that sticks out, a “disruptive” voice in the industry.

For the readers of Japan Subculture Research Center, Derrrrruq!!!’s three creators, Mari Kawade, Maho Honda, and Tsukasa Kondo, might look familiar. Their previous work, 2nd Avenue, was also a bicultural show set in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The entire series of 2nd Avenue is available on YouTube to watch.

Link: https://youtu.be/9jbXtOYNS1w

Like 2nd Avenue, Derrrrruq!!!’s aim with HodoBuzz is to create a show that is hard to find in the Japanese entertainment industry. To learn more about HodoBuzz and to make a donation to the crowdfunding campaign by the September 4th deadline, please visit http://kck.st/2u8rx8o.

HodoBuzz Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/derrrrruq/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/derrrrruq

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/derrrrruq/

Website: https://www.derrrrruq.com/