Media ethics betrayed in Japan

Author: Jeff Kingston, Temple University Japan

Imagine that the editorial page of The New York Times suddenly shifted dramatically rightward and columnists critical of US President Donald Trump were ousted and replaced by sycophantic pundits. Then a tape emerges of the editor justifying these changes as intended to counter accusations that the newspaper is anti-American and the sacking of Trump debunkers as designed to boost government ad revenue and snag an interview with Trump. This is essentially what recently happened at The Japan Times.

Evening editions of newspapers are piled up at a kiosk in Tokyo, Japan, 2 May 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Toru Hanai).

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In June 2017, public relations firm News2u purchased The Japan Times, Japan’s oldest and most circulated English-language newspaper. The new management jettisoned the newspaper’s previous critical editorial stance in favour of lauding Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s policies. The Japan Times now embraces Abe’s revisionist history, which promotes a vindicating and exonerating narrative of Japan’s wartime past.

Based on information from an insider’s tape, on 25 January 2019 Reuters reported that Executive Editor Hiroyasu Mizuno insinuated during a staff meeting that criticising Abe’s policies and revisionist views on history conveyed an anti-Japanese bias. He said, ‘I want to get rid of criticism that Japan Times is anti-Japanese’ — akin to arguing that criticising Trump makes The New York Times anti-American. According to that logic, much of the Japanese population must be anti-Japanese since polls suggest support for Abe’s …continue reading