ASAHI FAILS TO ACCURATELY REPORT HAGYUDA STORY
I am now embroiled in an incident that reminds me how easily the truth can be twisted.
As a result of an Asahi report based on my recent regular Internet news show, a rumor has spread that on July 26 Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagyuda said the speaker of the House of Representatives might have to be replaced in order to speed up deliberations on a constitutional revision. As the host of the show, I can guarantee the readers that the liberal daily’s coverage did not reflect the truth. I cannot but ask journalists who reported in the same vein as the Asahi—and those who criticize Hagyuda for his alleged remarks—if they really saw my news show in full in the first place.
To anyone who actually watched the whole show last Friday, it would have been obvious that Fumito Ishibashi, former chief political editor of the conservative daily Sankei Shimbun, was simply laying out possible personnel changes expected this fall within the government following last month’s upper house elections, which the ruling coalition won. It would also have been abundantly clear that Hagyuda, in responding to Ishibashi’s remarks, was merely explaining the role the lower house speaker plays.
Below I would like to explain how, during the course of the program, we arrived at this discussion of possible personnel changes.
Japan now clearly faces a number of threats internationally. The “short-range” ballistic missiles North Korea has recently launched in quick succession are said to be equipped with orbit correction functions difficult even for the US army to cope effectively with.
On July 24, China published a new defense white paper demonstrating its strongest-ever resolve to challenge the US while telling lies about its military build-up being solely of a defensive nature. And yet China continues to claim the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands in the South China Sea as its own territory, continuing to regularly violate Japanese territorial waters with armed vessels.
Meanwhile, there have been frequent reports quoting Donald Trump as being unhappy about the US-Japan Security Treaty, as he views the arrangement as unfair to the US. Although the US is Japan’s only ally in the world, it was reported that Trump even discussed the possibility of scrapping the treaty in “friendly conversations” with his Japanese counterpart, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Finally, as the Moon Jae-in administration of South Korea steps up its fierce anti-Japanese rhetoric in an ongoing trade dispute, the Korean Peninsula could possibly be headed for a reunification under the North’s initiative.
Sorry State of Diet’s Deliberations on Constitutional Reform
This series of developments constitutes a real security crisis for Japan. Having just gotten through the upper house elections, coping effectively with these threats is the pressing issue for Abe and his coalition government. The government will not be able to safeguard people’s lives or our territorial air, land, and waters unless it succeeds in implementing a constitutional revision and enhancing our national defense capabilities.
With these things in mind, I discussed the immediate security issues confronting Japan. A third guest was Ms Makiko Takita, editor-in-chief of the conservative Seiron monthly magazine.
During the recent election campaign in rallies across the nation, Abe brought to the forefront more strongly than ever before his pledge to implement a constitutional revision, asking voters which political parties they would vote for—those willing to deliberate a revision or those adamantly against deliberations. The coalition of the Liberal-Democratic Party (LDP) and its junior partner Komeito won the election, but at least for now they are four seats short of the majority they had prior to July 20 of two-thirds of the Diet seats needed to put constitutional reform on the table. Unexpectedly, however, Hagyuda sounded very positive about the coalition government’s future.
His position appeared flexible as he said: “We failed to achieve an absolute majority, but we are able to now see an opportunity emerging of approaching opposition members of such parties as the Japan Innovation Party and the National Democratic Party.”
The panel then agreed that the LDP must more proactively tackle a constitutional revision. It would be quite natural for the ruling party to take on the projected revision at full force in order to fulfill the promise they made during the election.
To call a spade a spade, Diet deliberations of constitutional reform have been in a shambles. The commission on the constitution of both houses of parliament has seldom taken up constitutional reform, even though the world around us is undergoing so drastic a sea change. This despite the fact that each commission is said to be manned by ten regular staffers. Against such a backdrop, Ishibashi explained the importance of personnel shifts within the coalition government expected in the fall as follows:
“Personnel matters involving the speaker of the upper house are attracting particular attention today, for a change. The commissions on the constitution have only to do with the Diet, not the government. (Tadamori) Oshima has served as the speaker of the lower house over a long period of time. He is truly cautious and reluctant to move quickly. What the government needs is a versatile lower house speaker who is considerably more influential with all politicians across the board. I think I have a very good candidate in mind—Toshihiro Nikai, who now serves as Secretary-General of the Liberal-Democratic Party.”
Major news outlets, such as the Jiji Press, the Nikkei, the Mainichi and the Sankei, have reported that the major interest of Japanese political pundits is how the government will treat Nikai this fall. I assume Ishibashi portrayed Nikai as a likely candidate for lower house speaker because he is aware that any person entrusted with the task of implementing a constitutional revision and adroitly maneuvering Japan through the international threats facing Japan must be a power in politics, like Nikai.
Hearing Ishibashi’s points, I threw in a question focusing on the importance of the role of the speaker of the lower house and asked Hagyuda if he thought appointing a strong man who also has influence with opposition members as a new speaker could be considered a significant move reflecting Abe’s zeal to forge ahead with a constitutional revision.
Asahi’s Quotations Loose and Arrogant
Hagyuda replied by explaining the role of the speaker roughly as follows:
“It is not the prime minister but the Diet that actually implements a constitutional revision. Speaker Oshima is a fine gentleman, but is rather cautious, as I have mentioned. If no progress can be made with the current people, it is important for the Diet to appoint someone capable as a new speaker to work out a better scheme for a constitutional revision.”
Fairly specific though Hagyuda’s remarks may have been, he was after all only expounding what role the speaker of the lower house is expected to play.
On July 30, however, the Asahi ran an article written by its political reporter Takayuki Okubo, entitled Hagyuda’s Comments about Replacing Lower House Speaker Creates Ripples. Okubo based his piece on what Hagyuda had stated on my news show, but he completely neglected the remarks by journalist Ishibashi which preceded Hagyuda’s comments.
Viewed from the flow of the entire discussions by the guests on my show, it would be wide of the mark to criticize Hagyuda as having gone so far as to propose “replacing” the upper house speaker as the Asahi’s Okubo reported. I would like anyone interested in this issue to access the website of the “Genron” Internet tv news show and listen to the entire one-hour conversation we had last Friday.
I want to make another point very clear concerning Hagyuda’s remarks. By this I mean I seriously question the Asahi’s posture towards Internet television.Its reporter did a story this time quoting from a news show broadcast by Genron Internet television, but absoutely failed to give Hagyuda’s remarks proper attribution to my show, merely referring to “an Internet television program” instead. I take issue with what I consider the daily’s intentional omission of “Genron Internet television” as the source in this case.
The minimum required manners of journalists or scholars when quoting facts and figures is to identify their sources clearly. This is a minimum requirement for anyone who writes. I find insincere, sloppy and arrogant the Asahi’s attribution of Okubo’s article to “an Internet program.” At the same time, I cannot but wonder if the daily might have violated journalistic ethics and standards—as well as the copyright act.
Hagyuda’s remarks as improperly quoted by the Asahi have prompted a small bipartisan group of politicians—including the LDP’s Bunmei Ibuki and Kiyomi Tsujimoto of the Constitutional Democratic Party—to criticize him, expressing concern that this incident could significantly delay Diet discussions of a constitutional revision. But if our politicians are to get taken in by critical opinions based on willfully improper quotations, forego discussions that must be conducted, and end up repeating the folly of unduly delaying the process of implementing a constitutional reform, they will truly be doing harm to the people and the state. Our politicians, of all people, owe it to themselves to review the full picture of what others have to say. (The End)
(Translated from Renaissance Japan column #864 in the August 8-16 combined issue of The Weekly Shincho)