National / Media

Asahi Shimbun apologizes for 'inappropriate' tweet about Shinzo Abe

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

Major daily Asahi Shimbun Co. apologized Wednesday for tweets by one of its veteran reporters that featured a photograph of a rightists’ rally along with text saying that the participants — some holding flags bearing the rising sun and swastika — were supporters of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, without sufficient confirmation.

The tweet sparked outrage from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which Abe heads, saying that it gives the impression Abe is supported by the likes of neo-Nazis. The party demanded an apology from the Asahi Shimbun on Tuesday.

On his official Twitter account, Tadashi Tominaga, the paper’s senior staff writer, posted a photograph Sunday of an ultranationalist rally, saying they are Abe’s supporters.

“Japanese nationalist demonstration in Tokyo. They are supporting PM Abe and his conservative administration,” the tweet said in Japanese, English and French.

The tweet immediately drew criticism from other Twitter users since it suggested all protesters in the rally supported Abe. Although Tominaga deleted the tweet later in the day, it reached at least nearly 8,000 followers.

“My tweet on 02/08/2015 with a Tokyo demonstration photograph was an error. Again I am very sorry for that mistake,” Tominaga wrote in a tweet posted in English early on Wednesday.

In its Wednesday edition, Asahi Shimbun apologized to its readers, saying it gave a verbal warning to Tominaga for damaging the paper’s image.

According to the Asahi Shimbun, Tominaga had found the photograph, presumably taken earlier in the year or at an earlier date, on the Internet and used it without the author’s consent — an unethical move journalistically.

The publisher’s spokesman told The Japan Times the company regards the content as “inappropriate,” and not suitable to be shared on the reporter’s official Twitter account.

The Asahi Shimbun was not the only party to come under fire over a tweet recently.

During a news conference on Wednesday, LDP Deputy Chief of Diet Affairs Hachiro Okonogi criticized a party member who called students protesting against a government-sponsored package of security bills as “extremely selfish.”

“Attitude and sentiments regarding the issue may vary, but we have discussed (with other LDP members) that the comment was half-baked and inappropriate,” Okonogi said.

Last week, LDP’s Takaya Muto, 36, wrote on his Twitter account that members of Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy saying “We never want to go to war” is extremely selfish.

On Tuesday, the LDP’s Diet Affairs Chief Tsutomu Sato said he told Muto to be more careful with his remarks.

Muto, however, refused to retract what he said.

Talking to reporters on Tuesday, Muto said that youngsters are acting based on misleading information, saying that even if the Diet enacts the bills, it doesn’t mean they will be sent to war.

Information from Kyodo added