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Japan’s Asahi Shimbun loses credibility


Japan’s Asahi Shimbun, one of the country’s leading newspapers and a bastion defending liberal values, has withdrawn misleading articles on controversial subjects published over a number of years and admitted faking an interview with a business leader.

In a statement in its September 4th edition, the Asahi said that a story published in June 2012 that appeared to be an interview with the president of Nintendo, the world’s largest video game maker, had in fact been compiled from material on the company’s website when the president refused the interview. The Asahi apologised after a weekly magazine published details of the incident.

Only a few days later, on September 11th, Tadakazu Kimura, the Asahi’s president, announced that the newspaper was withdrawing a controversial article about the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster that appeared on May 20, 2014. It reported that workers had fled the disaster site, disregarding orders to stay put. The story, based on leaked testimony by the late manager of the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, proved untrue.

The September apologies came after one on 5 August when the Asahi apologized for factual errors in articles it has published since 1982 on the “comfort women” issue. The issue relates to the role of the Japanese government in the forced prostitution of women from Korea and other countries during WWII to service the Japanese army. The issue remains controversial to this day, especially in South Korea, since conservative politicians in Japan claim such events never took place.

People were surprised but tolerant over the Asahi’s apology for the stories on comfort women. After all, it was over 30 years since the first was published.

However, they have been less tolerant over the more recent deceptions. For example, a Nippon TV opinion poll showed that, when asked whether they appreciated the Asahi’s correction and apology, only 6.4% said “yes,” while 23.3% said “no.” Almost two thirds said they appreciated the correction and apology, but thought they were “too late.”

In the same poll, when asked whether Mr. Kimura’s formal apology could help regain trust in the Asahi Shimbun, only 21.5% said “yes,” while more than 60% responded negatively.

Honesty in admitting past mistakes was appreciated but has not restored credibility.

There is disappointment that the Asahi Shimbun has joined the ranks of companies that have betrayed public trust and sadness that its ability to defend liberal values is now impaired. 


Picture credit: © Aarstudio | - Trust Photo

Asahi Shimbun | Asia | Business ethics

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