The Japanese Media, the Comfort Women Tribunal, and the NHK Affair
Friday, August 19, 2005 Posted: 08:33 AM JST
(by Tessa Morris-Suzuki) - In the last week of January and the first weeks of February 2005, the words which leapt out at commuters' eyes from the advertisements were "lies", "witch hunt", "political pressure" and everywhere, the names of two of Japan's largest and most influential media institutions: the national broadcasting company NHK and the daily newspaper Asahi. The two organizations were embroiled in an intense battle over problem of media ethics and freedom, and their rival media organizations were observing the struggle with considerable glee.
Unlike the entertainment world scandals that often fill the headlines of the weekly magazines, this struggle has profound political and social significance. Despite the image of a vibrant free press conveyed by the magazine advertisements, deep and disturbing questions have emerged about the capacity of the Japanese media to maintain their political independence and provide a forum for unfettered political debate. The NHK controversy also touches on long-standing but still unresolved problems of historical responsibility: problems which have a powerful bearing on the future of Japan's relations with its East Asian neighbors.
The origins of the controversy go back to December 2000, when the Women's War Crimes Tribunal opened in Tokyo. The Tribunal, organized by NGOs from Japan and six other countries, sought to gather and publicize testimony and reach judgments on a war crime not addressed by the postwar Tokyo trials - the subjection of women from colonized or occupied countries to institutionalized rape and sexual abuse in so-called "comfort stations" established by the Japanese military.
Read the full article at Japan Focus.
Tessa Morris-Suzuki conducts research on questions of frontiers, citizenship and historical memory in modern Japan. Her most recent book is The Past Within Us: Media, Memory, History
* * *