Conservative novelist Naoki Hyakuta continued his harsh criticism of two Okinawan newspapers, the Okinawa Shimbun and the Ryukyu Shimbun, at a news conference on Friday, calling them "garbage" over the way they have been reporting the U.S. base relocation issue.
Hyakuta, 59 — a former NHK board member and close friend of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe - caused a furor in June when he spoke at a meeting of 37 junior lawmakers belonging to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). He said the two newspapers in Okinawa should be put out of business for their criticism of the central government’s policy on the U.S. base issue.
His remarks led other lawmakers present to suggest the government put pressure on the Japan Business Federation to urge members not to advertise in the two Okinawan newspapers.
The incident caused a huge backlash for Abe and the ruling coalition.
However, on Friday, Hyakuta once again went on the offensive, Sankei Shimbun reported. "These newspapers are so incredibly mistaken - from the way that they handled information regarding recent general elections and then conveniently changed their facts afterwards. They are garbage."
Hyakuta added: "It can't be helped that those two newspapers are angry about what I've said, but now that I'm on the subject, I also think that the Asahi, Mainichi and the other Tokyo-based newspapers are all no better than the Okinawan ones after what they have published about the right to collective defense."
Asked his response to protests saying that his opinions violated the right to free speech, Hyakuta said: "The constitution protects my right to say what I'm saying, and let's face it, it's not like I actually have any power to really shut down any newspaper. My opinions about these newspapers are simply my own."
Meanwhile, Masako Ganaha, a representative of a 350-member volunteer group calling for the right to an unbiased press, supported Hyakuta at the news conference, Sankei reported.
"We believe that the way these two newspapers have been handling information surrounding the relocation of the U.S. military base and other related issues has been rather biased. The result has been to make some citizens of Okinawa and other parts of Japan believe that our country has little to no ability to defend itself from possible invasion at the hands of China. Although they may be indeed worried about such a scenario, their coverage is not providing objective facts for the benefit of the Japanese people."© Japan Today