Panel: Shukan Asahi story on Osaka mayor adds to discrimination

November 13, 2012

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

A third-party panel for The Asahi Shimbun Co. has concluded that a story on Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto in Shukan Asahi Weekly Magazine has reinforced discrimination.

Asahi Shimbun Publications Inc., which publishes the magazine, said Nov. 12 that President Hideo Kotoku has resigned and Director Mitsuru Shinozaki has become acting president.

The story was carried in the magazine’s Oct. 26 edition as the first installment of a series on Hashimoto.

In a report, the Press and Human Rights Committee said, “The story, including its headline, is based on the wrong idea of denying Hashimoto’s integrity as a human being on the basis of his origin. It has lost sight of independent human dignity.”

Asahi Shimbun Publications again apologized to Hashimoto on Nov. 12 and explained measures to prevent a recurrence that it adopted based on the panel’s finding.

Hashimoto said he understood and accepted the company’s explanation. He had demanded that the company look into the process leading to the story’s publication and explain it to him.

The company demoted Daishi Kawabata, former editor in chief of Shukan Asahi Weekly Magazine, and a deputy editor in charge of the series, and suspended them from work for three months.

An official in charge of the magazine division and also responsible for compliance was also suspended from work for 20 days.

In its report, the Press and Human Rights Committee said the story included expressions directly insulting to Hashimoto and also expressions that reinforced discrimination, such as naming a location whose residents have faced discrimination.

It also said the main parts of the article are based on stories whose reliability is in question.

“It is a mistake that should not be made by a media organization whose mission is to fight against human rights violations, such as discrimination and prejudice, and which should strive for accurate reporting,” the panel said.

The three-member panel concluded: “The recognition of discrimination and the consideration to human rights are lacking, and the editorial department’s checking systems are not functioning.”

Specifically, the panel said there was not a synopsis in the planning stage and the editorial department did not consider how the series would develop.

It said there are no signs that the company considered suspending publishing the story as a result of in-house checking.

The panel also said the company apologized only for the title and inappropriate descriptions after the story appeared and failed to recognize the root of the problem.

Asahi Shimbun Publications discontinued the series on Oct. 19 after the first installment was published.

The panel said the decision could not be helped because the series was to continue to feature Hashimoto’s relatives in the following installments and mistakes would be repeated unless these problems were examined.

The magazine’s editorial department played the lead role in producing the story, and nonfiction writer Shinichi Sano wrote the story on behalf of the editorial department.

The panel therefore said the editorial department is fully responsible for the problems but added that Sano also lacked consideration of human rights and discrimination.

Asahi Shimbun Publications announced measures to prevent a recurrence, such as providing thorough training to reporters on human rights as well as a code of conduct and the separation of the publisher and the editor.

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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