Prime Minister Shinzo Abe apologized Friday for remarks made last week by close members of his Liberal Democratic Party who called for attacking the income of media organizations that report critically on security legislation drafted by his administration.
“It was extremely inappropriate,” Abe told a session of a House of Representatives committee on peace and security legislation. “I apologize for (the remarks) if they hurt the feelings of people in Okinawa Prefecture,” he said, referring to an LDP meeting of young lawmakers and a conservative novelist who said the two major newspapers in Okinawa had been “taken over by left-wingers” and should be “destroyed.”
In the revealing June 25 meeting, which involved about 40 junior LDP members loyal to Abe, media outlets were lambasted for critical reporting on his security policies.
These include the locally opposed Futenma base relocation plan, the Cabinet’s decision to reinterpret, rather than amend, Article 9 of the Constitution, and bills aimed at legalizing the use of collective self-defense so the Self-Defense Forces can be deployed on more missions overseas.
Last year, Abe faced opposition for enacting the controversial state secrets law, which raised fears it might be used to discourage journalists from reporting on potentially sensitive information out of fear of being jailed.
At the meeting in question last month, best-selling novelist Naoki Hyakuta, a close friend of Abe’s, was invited to take part as the featured speaker and said the two Okinawa papers should be “destroyed.”
Abe did not attend the meeting. But he said Friday, “Since the study session was held at the party’s headquarters, I am ultimately responsible.”
“Those remarks were very regrettable and thoughtless,” Abe said, adding that they “significantly damage people’s trust and are not acceptable.”
Yukio Edano, secretary-general of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, put it another way: “It should never be allowed for public authorities to put pressure on the media.”
The LDP said it has already announced disciplinary measures against the lawmakers who made the remarks.
On Thursday, the editors-in-chief of the two Okinawa papers — the Ryukyu Shimpo and the Okinawa Times — said at news conferences in Tokyo that they reflect the major opinions of the prefecture on the government’s handling of the issues.