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The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party rebuffed on Monday a TV watchdog’s criticism that they exerted undue pressure on NHK over questionable news reporting.

“I don’t think we should keep our mouth shut at all times just because of freedom of the press,” LDP Secretary-General Sadakazu Tanigaki said in response to criticism from the Broadcasting Ethics & Program Improvement Organization. The body more simply known as BPO is an independent entity set up in 2003 by NHK and private broadcasters to promote ethical standards in broadcasting.

The BPO criticized the LDP on Friday for summoning an NHK executive last April to ask about a news report that had come under scrutiny, while rapping the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications for issuing a “stern warning” to the broadcaster, also in April, over the program.

NHK faced allegations that its “Close-up Gendai” news program aired in May 2014 about scams involving religious organizations contained fabrications and excessive dramatizations.

An NHK investigation panel concluded no fabrication had occurred.

At a news conference, Tanigaki said that if a similar case emerges, the party may again “bring (a broadcaster) over and ask about the situation.”

At a separate news conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the BPO has “misinterpreted” provisions in the broadcasting law that set editing rules as merely ethical standards.

The communications ministry took “necessary action” as a supervisory body of the broadcasting industry after finding from an NHK report over the program that the news reporting violated the law, Suga said.

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