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kuchikomi

Diplomatic pressure on foreign reporters raises media hackles

38 Comments

The headline in Nikkan Gendai (April 14) read, "Abe government going so far as to pressure foreign media."

The revelations originated from an article by a German journalist in the "Number 1 Shimbun," the monthly house publication written by, and circulated among, members of the venerable Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan.

In that publication's current issue, which appeared the first week in April, the soon to be departing Tokyo Japan correspondent for the German daily, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Carsten Germis, conveyed his concerns over government pressure on foreign journalists.

"The country I’m leaving is different from the one I arrived in back in January 2010," he remarked.

It seems that after Germis published an article that was critical of Japan's attempts at historical revision, a diplomat from the Japanese consul general in Frankfurt visited an editor at his newspaper to convey objections from Tokyo. The Chinese, the diplomat complained, had used the article as fodder for anti-Japanese propaganda.

"It got worse," wrote Germis. "Later on in the frosty, 90-minute meeting, the editor asked the consul general for information that would prove the facts in the article wrong, but to no avail."

The Japanese diplomat, who was not named, allegedly went so far as to insinuate that "money was involved," and that Germis was writing pro-China propaganda in order to obtain a visa to work in China -- a country where Germis insisted he has never set foot.

"Two weeks before the epic meeting between the Consul general and my editor," wrote Germis, "I had another lunch with Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials, in which protests were made of my use of words like 'whitewash history,' and the idea that Abe’s nationalistic direction might 'isolate Japan, not only in East Asia.' The tone was frostier and, rather than trying to explain and convince, their attitude was angrier.

"I would suggest the proponents tread carefully, since these editors have been treated to – and become inured to – political PR of the highest caliber and clumsy efforts tend to have an opposite effect. When I officially complained about the consul’s comments about my receiving funds from China, I was told that it was a 'misunderstanding.'"

Germis' full article can be viewed online here.

"This piece of news came as an unprecedented shock," former diplomat Naoto Amagi tells Nikkan Gendai. "Isn't this a case of the German people standing up to the Abe government's crude methods? In the future, I expect that similar kinds of talk will surface in other parts of the world. It will become a huge international problem. The Japanese media, which has failed to report on this, is also washed up.

"These efforts can do nothing but bring shame on Japan."

A day after the Nikkan Gendai article appeared, the Tokyo Shimbun ran a similar story, in which it asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for a comment. Kyoko Ito, a spokesperson, essentially denied the claims Germis made in his article.

"We strictly respect freedom of expression by the media," said Ito. "If errors in fact or misinterpretations appear, there may also be cases in which we will issue a claim. We have confirmed that the consul general, when he issued the protest, made no remarks alluding to the matter of visas or money."

Sophia University professor of political science Koichi Nakano told the newspaper that "I've been told that staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have been advising journalists that 'Nakano cannot be trusted.' The ministry's way of doing things is negative. It's the nature of reporters to want to hear the opposite thing, and when a government attempts innuendoes like this, it only raises the sense of mistrust."

Nakano also makes the point that in the recent case of the issue of comfort women in a U.S. textbook -- as opposed to scholars debating a given issue -- intervention by a government is a no-no. "Unless this is understood, Japan risks damaging its international image," he says.

Tomomi Yamaguchi, associate professor of cultural anthropology at the University of Montana, remarked to Tokyo Shimbun, "I've never heard of a diplomat paying a call [on the media] to deliver a protest over differences in political interpretations. Maybe this was a different thing altogether."

© Japan Today

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

38 Comments
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I've no doubt that this sort of thing is happening, however the Japanese government is fighting a losing battle by trying to do this. Surely they must realise the futility of it all?

18 ( +20 / -2 )

Good on JT for being willing to publish this. I wonder if they'll receive a visit in protest.

32 ( +35 / -3 )

It seems to have originally been published in a Japanese mag (Nikkan Gendai) which is slightly encouraging. Sometimes those gossipy mags do more worthwhile stories than the broadsheets.

15 ( +17 / -2 )

"...I was told that it was a misunderstanding."

Professional liars. No sense of shame or moral compass = politician.

20 ( +22 / -2 )

Scotchegg@Nikkan Gendai is a daily tabloid newspaper, not a magazine.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Publish anything thhat's even remotely disagreeable (ie. revealing or edgy) and it's met with either protest or censorship. Welcome to news "reporting" (not journalism) in Japan...

13 ( +16 / -3 )

The fact that the Japanese government would send someone from their Consulate to intimidate a German newspaper is pathetic. Germany should expel the Consul if they try it again.

As I see it, what drives this media self-censorship in Japan is that both ordinary Japanese citizens and government officials are completely incapable of separating critisism of the government or historical events from criticism of 'the Japanese people'. If you criticise Abe's policies, taxpayer supported whaling, war criminals, the seige of Osaka in 1614 etc., the ordinary Japanese person feels like they have to personally take responsibility for all of that, so it's not surprising that they often end up circling the wagons or denying what is happening/has happened.

15 ( +17 / -2 )

If Abe has his way, sooner or later foreign journalists in Japan will live with constant surveillance and the possibility of having homes and offices searched or of being detained while conducting news coverage that would be routine elsewhere.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Don't make waves, don't cause trouble. Let's see some more hard-hitting journalism on how delicious a certain ramen restaurant is, or what foreigners think is really cool about Japan. And that goes for you, too, gaijin.

17 ( +17 / -0 )

From my experience in Japan, I can definitely see this situation happening. Then once confronted we see the default response that the foreigners misunderstand us. I find it amusing that Japan doesn't realize how little clout they have on the World stage.

11 ( +13 / -2 )

Yes, Nikkan Gendai is a tabloid. And remember, a Japanese politician said 7 or 8 years ago that if she did not read the tabloids, she would not know what is going on this this country. The problem is that this solid reporting is between stories about how to have intercourse in the office stairwell and nude photos, so people may skip these articles.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

M3M3M3

As I see it, what drives this media self-censorship in Japan is that both ordinary Japanese citizens and government officials are completely incapable of separating critisism of the government or historical events from criticism of 'the Japanese people'. If you criticise Abe's policies, taxpayer supported whaling, war criminals, the seige of Osaka in 1614 etc., the ordinary Japanese person feels like they have to personally take responsibility for all of that, so it's not surprising that they often end up circling the wagons or denying what is happening/has happened.

I noticed this as well. Even the slightest criticism of this country makes them lose their temper and accuse you and everyone you know of anti Japanese sentiment. This country has the thinnest skin I have ever seen.

Japan has nothing to be proud of these days. Thats probably the reason why so many of them are turning to right wing nationalism. It makes them mistakenly feel strong and important. I also noticed a surge in articles and tv shows that praise this country over some of the most trivial eye rolling issues. This kind of mental masturbation would be laughed at in other countries.

8 ( +13 / -5 )

The Japanese media, which has failed to report on this, is also washed up.

“These efforts can do nothing but bring shame on Japan.”

Spot on. But won't change a thing. Japan in many ways is as isolated as it was centuries ago. And Abe is just pushing fiurther in that direction.

9 ( +14 / -5 )

So Japanese Consul-General Sakamoto calls on the headquarters of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung to convey objections over how that journal was reporting WII. The MFA does not deny that he was doing so on instructions. The Gaimusho thinks it can tell Germany on how to deal with what happened in the war? I would laugh, but I really want to cry.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

I've no doubt that this sort of thing is happening, however the Japanese government is fighting a losing battle by trying to do this. Surely they must realise the futility of it all?

Akula,

Sadly I don't think most J-politicians are smart enough to see the futility of it all, a great many are incredibly stupid unfortunately, but Japanese keep electing them so......................

I wonder how much damage abe is going to cause with his speech in congress, if he tells things like HE believes its going to make Japan look horrible, that or he flat spouts lies, either way the world can easily figure out Japan its a open book & a rather sad pathetic one at that

The downward trajectory continues!

10 ( +12 / -2 )

Japan has nothing to be proud of these days.

I wouldn't want foreigners who believe this inhabiting my country either. And there's nothing wrong with being right wing or nationalist. Maybe in the emasculated nations of Western Europe that's frowned upon, but it certainly isn't in the rest of the world. Or do you fancy that China and South Korea are nationalistic because they too have 'nothing to be proud of'?

-14 ( +2 / -16 )

“We strictly respect freedom of expression by the media,” said Ito. “If errors in fact or misinterpretations appear, there may also be cases in which we will issue a claim. We have confirmed that the consul general, when he issued the protest, made no remarks alluding to the matter of visas or money.”

Pull the other one

7 ( +8 / -1 )

First the visit to the author of a US textbook and now a visit to a German newspaper, it seems the Abe government is stepping up efforts to stifle criticism overseas as well as in Japan. When questioned the MOFA lies about it, so I hope any future interactions with Japanese "diplomats"/propagandists will be recorded.

I wonder when NHK will report on these activities? Just showing Suga lying about it doesn't count.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

I wonder when NHK will report on these activities? Just showing Suga lying about it doesn't count.

Never, instead NHK may show you a documentary : 'Kabutomushi- Special !'

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Has anyone bothered to look at Japan ranking in the world in terms of Freedom of Press. I find this all of ZERO surprise. BEFORE all this nonsense started with the new laws Abe started about whistle blowing and the such, Japan ranked somewhere around 52. That was from a couple years ago, I am sure the new rating will be far worse.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

GW: Sadly I don't think most J-politicians are smart enough to see the futility of it all, a great many are incredibly stupid unfortunately, but Japanese keep electing them so......................

They are smart enough to know how to get re-elected. That's their main job.

Most of us who see some things that Abe does as counter-productive really like Japan and hope it would behave in a manner that benefits it in the long term.

Denying negative things that have occurred in the past doesn't win it any sympathies. Admitting an error doesn't make you weaker in the long run. I think they feel that it would simply cost them votes in the near term.

Short term gain - long term pain.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

“These efforts can do nothing but bring shame on Japan.”

They already have, and will continue to do so because the people who SHOULD feel ashamed will vehemently deny any wrongdoing and instead claim THEY are being attacked. So, yeah, the reputation of Japan will suffer, but it'll never be the fault of the people who cause it to suffer.

Fortunately for the gentleman going back to Germany, he's going to a place that does not censor in such a dictatorial fashion, and the world never buys this kind of 'Japan is the victim' and 'Japan respects and encouraged free press -- there was a misunderstanding!' crap that they try and run the country here with.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

It's so sad to read all this. The j. People as people are wonderful empathetic people. I love japan. So pathetic these actions with usa textbook.and germany! Someone new must arise here after abe is gone. Haruki murakami wld make a great pm! He is an honest open minded japanese...

4 ( +5 / -1 )

"Diplomas" of this ilk ought to be declared personae non gratae and sent home. It is outrageous enough that the Abe-LDP gang harass Japanese media. Things have gone insane when these bad gaijin Japanese "diplomats" start trying to strong-arm the media in other countries. And about what? Japanese crimes against humanity. Trying to hide the facts that cannot be hid. Abe and his gang are exactly like the Holocaust deniers.

In the end all that Abe is doing is making people hate Japan.

And the irony is that Japan, thanks to Article 9, has not committed any atrocities for 70 years.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

This IS a kuchikomi article and very hard to find any other information to back it up off the internet. If it is indeed true it would behoove JT to put supporting links up as well.

On it's own it is hard to swallow as being accurate.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Yubaru@Your skepticism is truly awe-inspiring.

Did you read the article before you posted? In particular this sentence? "Germis’ full article can be viewed online here."

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Has everybody forgotten that Ambassador Sasae threatened the state of Virginia with the loss of Japanese business if that state went through with allowing textbooks to call the Sea of Japan the East Sea? Well, the state in fact allowed the textbooks to do precisely that. So did the Japanese Embassy pull out every one of its diplomats who lived in Virginia? Did Sasae order the Japanese companies to stop doing business in Virginia?

Problem with making a threat and then not carrying through is that it exposes the Japanese diplomats as pusilaminous and incompetent. I am surprised that Sasae was not summoned home and made to account for his failure to carry out the Abe Shinzo government orders.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

I wouldn't want foreigners who believe this inhabiting my country either. And there's nothing wrong with being right wing or nationalist.

Wow. That is scary thinking in the 21st-century, global economy, especially in a country so dependent on foreign trade -- in fact, a country that is right now trying to negotiate its way into TPP. But, on the other hand, it is not at all surprising either. Japan has always wanted the freedom to operate the way it chooses in international trade and relations, but not want to accept any form of criticism. And, while "being right wing or nationalist" in themsleves are not necessarily a problem, they are when they intefere with the basic human rights, like free speech, guaranteed in the constitution, and/or they threaten the stability in the region which millions of people spilled blood for to obtain.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

Kuchikomi articles should be read with a grain of salt. JT is famous for stirring the pot and reposting articles that are either unverifiable or downright false in their suppositions.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

There are only two words you need when Abe's "diplomats" come barging into your office. "Get out."

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I would say there's far more blame to be put on the Japanese media for self-censoring, rather than the Japanese government. Governments the world over try to influence the media as much as possible, it's up to the media to sift through it's bulls**t.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Maybe Japan should establish "Confucius Institutes" like China does, and do it thru there:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confucius_Institute

Confucius Institutes (Chinese: 孔子学院; pinyin: Kǒngzǐ Xuéyuàn) are non-profit public institutions affiliated with the Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China[1] whose stated aim is to promote Chinese language and culture, support local Chinese teaching internationally, and facilitate cultural exchanges.[2][3]

Confucius Institutes are sometimes compared to language and culture promotion organizations such as Britain's British Council, France's Alliance Française and Germany's Goethe-Institut. Unlike these organizations, however, Confucius Institutes operate within established universities, colleges, and secondary schools around the world, providing funding, teachers and educational materials. This has raised concerns over their influence on academic freedom, the possibility of industrial espionage,[4] and concerns that the institutes present a selective and politicized view of China as a means of advancing the country's soft power internationally.[1][5]

The Confucius Institute program began in 2004 and is overseen by Hanban (officially the Office of Chinese Language Council International). The program is governed by a council whose top-level members are drawn from the Communist Party of China leadership and various state ministries.[1][6] The institutes operate in co-operation with local affiliate colleges and universities around the world, and financing is shared between Hanban and the host institutions. The related Confucius Classroom program partners with local secondary schools or school districts to provide teachers and instructional materials.[7][8]

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I wouldn't want foreigners who believe this inhabiting my country

Don't worry; no such "foreigners" exist. Once they start inhabiting your country, they become immigrants.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Wow. That is scary thinking in the 21st-century, global economy, especially in a country so dependent on foreign trade -- in fact, a country that is right now trying to negotiate its way into TPP.

In what way does nationalism inhibit free trade or the global economy? That's a decision of economic policy, and is supported or opposed for reasons completely orthogonal to political alignment or nationalism.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

And this sort of stuff will get worse now that the government has upped the budget to "educate" people around the world about Japan. The government is hopeless when it comes to PR. Rather than helping, they will end up making Japan's reputation much worse than it was among even more people. Thanks a lot - what a great use of tax money.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Very foolish and counterproductive. Why is Abe trying to copy the way China handles diplomacy? Shouldn't Japan be aiming a bit higher? Abe never misses a chance to disappoint in ways that harm Japan.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@jerseyboy

Wow. That is scary thinking in the 21st-century,

To be fair, this line was in response to a one-line blanket statement about Japan having nothing to be proud of. There's making constructive criticisms and then there is making blanket slams. Do YOU "want" foreign residents in your country that think, in essence, that your country is all bad? If your roomate says out loud that she thinks you have nothing to be proud of, do you think you want another roomate?

On to the rest. I've actually read the article. The whole spat with the diplomats have become a he-said, she-said. And Mr. Germis isn't giving me easy sight of his controversial articles so I can't evaluate. However, I think Mr. Germis IS playing dumb.

He says (in essence) a friend is not one that only blindly agrees, and a true friend is one willing to offer criticism. I agree. However, I'd argue a friend avoids deliberate action that puts you in a compromising position (I don't care what sense of justice or whatever is motivating him).

When Merkel blabbers something about war history or "revisionism", China would lap it up like water and use it as ammo. It is inconceivable Merkel doesn't know this. So, whatever ELSE she was thinking, she must have decided this (unfavorable to Japan) outcome is an "acceptable outcome". If your friend keeps taking actions that produces result unfavorable to you, and he accepts this as "acceptable", how long will you stay friends?

Also, a friend also considers that his friend may be following a different path, and will try not to trip him up. If he feels it necessary to report certain issues, he will not try and make it worse than it really is.

He is also playing dumb when he mentioned "the editor asked the consul general for information that would prove the facts in the article wrong". I hadn't read his article, but I strongly suspect his facts per se were accurate. It is also an irrevelant point because in these articles the tone and interpretations put on facts is at least as important as the facts themselves. Pretending to not realize this is a good way to raise blood pressure.

He also mentions he liked it better in the DPJ era when their officials gave him information. I can see why but I'm curious as to how the information given by the Japanese side was incorporated in his final product. For his Takeshima article, if I literally take his statement that the documents "proved" (rather than "asserted"/"Provided evidence"), he's sold based on those documents. If that's so, then this should be reflected in his future Takeshima article which in essence should call the Korean claim BS. I suspect that did not happen.

As for the comfort women issue, if he received documents on the Japanese government's thoughts, it must have included the position that all issues are settled in 1965. He could have taken a stance that while the comfort woman's plight is deplorable, Koreans will do well to remember international law and avoid making motions that un-necessarily disrupt good relationships. I am virtually certain that's not how the article went. If he mentions the 1965 thing at all, it'd probably be in a way that suggest Japan is trying to "sleaze" out of the situation rather than the Koreans welshing on a deal.

And if information provided you makes no influence in what you write, then is there value in giving you information? May the suddenly hardening attitudes reflect more exasperation after genuine attempts to convince you?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I think this author was also approached by Japanese diplomats in (Australia?) ,and asked to cease publishing it. He told them to get lost.

Here's info about similar censorship of the book, conducted by the newspapers:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2007/sep/22/japan.justinmccurry
-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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