Women’s rights NGO says Momii must resign

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

An organization that sued NHK in 2001 over altering the content of a mock tribunal it conducted on Japan’s wartime “comfort women” brothels is calling on Chairman Katsuto Momii to resign over his comment last week that “all countries” had similar wartime systems.

“We can only say these remarks are a declaration of NHK’s taking on the job of publicly disseminating Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s historical views and parroting his historical understanding,” said the Tokyo-based nongovernmental organization Violence Against Women in War-Network Japan (VAWW-Net) in a statement that laid out three reasons why Momii should quit.

“First, NHK, a public broadcaster, must respect the public broadcasting law, which states that freedom of speech in broadcasting will be guaranteed by preserving nonpartisan, truthful and autonomous broadcasting,” the statement said.

“However, NHK Chairman Katsuto Momii’s comments have created a question of whether or not such nonpartisanship and autonomy have been lost, and have stirred up a sense of crisis and mistrust among NHK viewers,” the statement said.

“Second, if the Japanese military’s ‘comfort women’ system was something that all countries had, as Momii says, then please clearly indicate the basis for such claims. The public spreading of such sloppy perceptions by the head of the public broadcaster cannot be allowed at all.

“Third, (Momii) cites the 1965 treaty between Japan and Korea as having resolved the issue. But under the (treaty’s) agreement for settling problems in regard to property and claims, the current situation between the two governments is not one where you can say the (comfort women) problem has been solved.

“We cannot approve of a person at the top who has no understanding of the broadcast law’s conditions of nonpartisanship, political fairness and not bending the facts, and strongly demand Momii resign as NHK chairman,” the group concluded.

In 2001, VAWW-Net sued NHK and two production companies over coverage of a citizens’ tribunal called the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal, claiming that NHK’s coverage was altered to exclude parts of the verdict due to political pressure from Abe and right-wing groups.

In 2005, one of NHK’s chief producers told a news conference that Abe and fellow Liberal Democratic Party heavyweight Shoichi Nakagawa had pressured NHK to change the content. Abe, Nakagawa and NHK all denied the allegation, but in 2007 the Tokyo High Court ordered NHK and two production companies to pay ¥2 million to VAWW-Net.

However, in 2008, the Supreme Court dismissed the damages that had been awarded to VAWW-NET Japan, stating that, in general, recognizing interviewees’ expectations and trust would lead to a withering of the media’s reporting activities and would limit freedom of the media.