A Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) governor handpicked by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the Nanking Massacre was a fabrication designed to cancel out U.S. atrocities during speeches supporting a like-minded candidate in the Tokyo gubernatorial election.
The speeches by writer Naoki Hyakuta came on Feb. 3, the same day NHK Chairman Katsuto Momii was repeating his apologies in the Diet for his Jan. 25 comments that suggested he would emphasize the government’s positions in the public broadcaster’s reports.
Although there are no legal provisions prohibiting NHK governors from taking part in political activities, Hyakuta’s words at campaign rallies on behalf of Toshio Tamogami, a former Air Self-Defense Force chief of staff running for Tokyo governor, have fueled doubts about NHK’s political neutrality.
“I have the freedom of ideology and beliefs,” Hyakuta told reporters on Feb. 3. “NHK governors are restricted by the Broadcast Law, but that means that we have to be thoroughly neutral and politically fair in regards to broadcasting. The law is not meant to also restrict my private activities.”
Hyakuta is one of 12 members of the NHK Board of Governors. He and four others were appointed by Abe and approved by the Diet in November 2013.
In his first speech on Feb. 3, in front of JR Shinjuku Station, Hyakuta said the U.S. military committed “cruel massacres” by fire-bombing Tokyo and dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
Referring to the Tokyo war crimes trial, Hyakuta said, “It was conducted to cover up those atrocities.”
The NHK governor continued to give his views about the war.
“In 1938, Chiang Kai-shek tried to publicize Japan’s responsibility for the Nanking Massacre, but the nations of the world ignored him. Why? Because it never happened,” Hyakuta said.
His views on history are in line with those held by Tamogami.
Tamogami was dismissed as ASDF chief of staff in November 2008 after he wrote an essay trying to legitimize Japanese military action before and during World War II. His view was in direct opposition to established government policy.
In the essay, Tamogami described Japan as a victim that was dragged into war against China by Chiang Kai-shek.
Hyakuta said in his Feb. 3 campaign speech that the Nanking Massacre was resuscitated in the Tokyo tribunal because the U.S. military wanted to cancel out its own crimes.
He also touched upon Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, that brought the United States into war against Japan.
“Japan has been criticized for going into war without a formal declaration, but in 20th-century wars, there were very few in which such declarations were made before fighting broke out,” Hyakuta said.
He also said he was in favor of revising Japan’s pacifist Constitution.
“The present Constitution is one that only has the hope that war will not break out again,” he said.
In a speech later in the day, Hyakuta also offered his views on education.
“During wars, some military personnel may have done cruel acts,” he said. “But that is not something only the Japanese have done. There is no reason to teach such things to children who are still in compulsory education. I want to first teach children what a wonderful nation Japan is.”
The Tokyo gubernatorial election is scheduled for Feb. 9.
The Broadcast Law states that officers of political parties cannot become NHK governors, but it is possible for party members to become NHK governors. There are no restrictions on the governors’ political activities, including making political donations.
An official in the secretariat of the Board of Governors said, “Regardless of the beliefs held by an individual governor, there would be no problem as long as the entire board made unbiased judgments.”
Momii has also insisted that NHK programming would abide by the Broadcast Law. He sparked outrage at home and abroad at his first news conference as NHK chairman on Jan. 25 by saying all warring nations had systems of “comfort women,” who provided sex to Japanese troops before and during World War II, criticizing South Korea’s demands for compensation and defending the contentious state secrets protection law.
He has since said those remarks were his personal opinions, a defense echoed by Hyakuta.
An NHK official said executives could not comment on the remarks of any governor.
However, Haruo Sudo, a professor emeritus of media studies at Tokyo’s Hosei University, said Hyakuta’s act of speaking on behalf of a specific candidate was highly unusual for an NHK governor.
Sudo touched upon supplementary provisions regarding NHK governors that say: “Governors should not conduct acts that could damage the honor and trust of NHK.”
Sudo said, “While everyone has the freedom of speech and expression, Hyakuta’s words and deeds ignore that standpoint of NHK governors.”
Hidemi Suzuki, a professor of media law at Osaka University, touched upon Article 1 of the Broadcast Law, which calls for political fairness and self-discipline.
“Because broadcasters are called upon to display fairness and neutrality under the Broadcast Law, those in broadcasting are required to make judgments on what is appropriate for comments in a public setting,” Suzuki said. “Speaking on behalf of a specific candidate could give viewers the mistaken impression that there is some connection to NHK’s reporting stance.”
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