An “unofficial” Twitter account operated by a Tokyo bookstore employee that promoted a “pro-democracy book fair” has sparked an online controversy, resulting in cancellation of the event by the chain’s head office.
Criticism erupted when the Twitter account, purported to be run by an employee at the MaruzenJunkudo bookstore chain’s Shibuya branch, advertised a book promotion fair featuring liberal ideologies with tweets expressing support for the anti-Abe administration movement.
The selection of featured books covered such topics as revolution, democracy and street demonstrations. The list included books about the pro-democracy youth group Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy (SEALDs), which protested the Abe administration’s ramming of security bills through the Diet last month.
“Our bookstore has plenty of members willing to fight,” the Twitter user wrote last week in reply to another tweet. The account said in a separate tweet the store will continue similar book fairs or events to support the activist group before the Upper House election scheduled for next July.
The account, @LibraryUnited, appears to have been deleted as of Monday.
In the face of a public outcry, MaruzenJunkudo Bookstores Co., Ltd. issued an official statement Thursday on its website to explain that the controversial tweets were from an unofficial Twitter account operated by a member of the store’s staff, and thus did not represent the company’s policy.
“We have operated with the belief that the role of a bookstore is to introduce a wide variety of ideologies and opinions. This stance will not change,” it said, adding the company will continue similar fairs but will re-examine the kinds of books it showcases.
Contacted by The Japan Times on Monday, a MaruzenJunkudo spokeswoman said she had nothing to add to the company’s statement.
Various opinions were exchanged online about the company’s decision to change the event.
“This is how the freedom of speech of minorities is taken away. This is what represents today’s Japan,” one anonymous user posted on the popular 2channel gossip bulletin board.
Another anonymous user reacted negatively to the tweets by the bookstore staffer: “It’s free (for individuals) to play up whatever ideology they have, but no doubt they become a target for criticism when they emphasize just single-sided opinions.”
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