Raging against Japan’s media machine
By Daniel Leussink
TOKYO - According to an old Japanese saying, "The nail that sticks up gets hammered down." This seems the unfortunate fate of Ichiro Ozawa, the only Japanese leader to stage two political revolutions in as many decades. The veteran lawmaker from Minshuto - the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) - faces a mandatory indictment over alleged illegal campaign donations by a construction company to his political funds body.
The scandal has dominated Japan’s headlines since March 2009, when Ozawa came under pressure to step down as Minshuto leader after allegations of misreporting by three secretaries came to light. Ozawa resigned from his post in May. His secretaries were later indicted. By then Ozawa had already paved the way for
his party’s greatest moment, a sweeping election victory that brought an end to Japan's half a century as a virtual one-party state ruled by the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan. Ozawa recruited 120 fresh candidates for that win.
Critics say that in the lead-up to his indictment next month, the 68-year-old Ozawa has become the victim of a targeted campaign against him by the news media aimed at his political integrity. "The news media should lead the public and warn them when a dangerous thing might take place," said Minshuto lawmaker Megumu Tsuji during an interview. "But they have not played that role at all."
Tsuji, who holds a Lower House seat in the Diet, Japan's parliament, had not associated with Ozawa. He became supportive of the former Minshuto leader as he saw the media excessively casting him in a bad light.
Indeed, since Ozawa was sidelined from government, Japanese across the political spectrum have become critical of the institutions that raised the unproven allegations against him - the public prosecutor's office and mainstream media.
"Newspapers are most concerned about whether Minshuto will break up or not [as a result of Ozawa's upcoming indictment]," Tsuji said. "But that will not happen so easily, I think."
While mainstream news media in Western democracies face similar allegations of being too close to the centers of power, the problem is more entrenched in Japan. Scholars have described the almost daily coverage of the scandal by influential daily newspapers and television shows as a character assassination.
"The Japanese news media don't act like watchdogs," said Yasuhiko Tajima, who teaches journalism at Sophia University in Tokyo. "They are part of the establishment. Their place is in the elite, upper, top echelon of Japanese society." "They lack an incentive to change the existing power structure in a fundamental way," said Tajima.
Since stepping down as Minshuto's front man, Ozawa has limited his appearances in domestic news media. He largely stopped granting personal interviews to newspapers and television. In December, he unexpectedly agreed to a one-on-one interview with freelance journalist Yasumi Iwakami. The 70-minute talk was broadcast live on the Internet and attracted 79,000 viewers.
"If we really reform the old system, the first thing that will happen is that those with vested interests will revolt ... Aren't those with the most vested interests the big newspapers and television channels?" said Ozawa. "But maybe Ichiro Ozawa will put a scalpel in that old system of vested interests. He might be a really dangerous person because of that."
One pillar of old Japan that Ozawa vowed to reform is the press club system. His own press conferences have been open for 20 years to everyone who wants to attend. "I think that is one of the original reasons why they started calling me a criminal," he said. The press club system is a cartel-like arrangement of closed clubs attached to government institutions through which a dozen "member" news organizations regulate coverage of press events. As a rule, most of them prohibit non-members (including other journalists) from attending press conferences and asking questions.
One result of this system has been that the public prosecutors could avoid being quoted by name when commenting to the news organizations about the allegations against Ozawa. Critics also say the daily newspapers took most allegations against Ozawa at face value, while they remain unproven.
Tsunehiko Maeda, the 43-year-old top prosecutor who built a case against Ozawa's chief accountant in 2009, was indicted and fired in October last year after it came to light he had fabricated evidence. So far the newspapers have failed to press the public prosecutor's office on whether or not Maeda committed a similar crime against Ozawa's aide, or for a new investigation.
Last week, Ozawa announced his intention to testify before a parliamentary panel about the allegations against him. It was the latest chance for the newspapers to give Ozawa a drilling through reportage, anonymous editorials and point-of-views representing citizen's voices.
"On the subject of money and politics, former DPJ president Ichiro Ozawa has apparently made up his mind to appear before the Lower House Deliberative Council on Political Ethics," wrote the Asahi Shimbun on December 29. "He must have calculated the pros and cons in reaching a decision, but why did it take so long?"
"The wily veteran showed that he still must have a few tricks up his sleeve," said another Asahi article from the same day. The Asahi Shimbun could not be reached for comment by Asia Times Online due to a New Year's holiday.
Ahead of its election victory, Minshuto pledged to end the press club system and open press conferences to journalists who do not belong to major news organizations. Even freelance journalists have started attending press conferences. But the party also pledged an end to cross-ownership of broadcasters and newspapers and an open auction system to sell broadcast frequency rights - it has so far failed to make good on this promise.
"The problem is that citizens expected a more drastic political shift after the change of government [to Minshuto in 2009]," said Akira Uozumi, author of numerous books on scandals involving politicians, the public prosecutor's office and the news media. "The biggest reason [for the lack of change] is perhaps Ozawa's exclusion from the government."
Members of the public have made their sentiments clear, with around 2,500 Japanese from all walks of life recently holding marches in Tokyo against the news media and the public prosecutor's office. The march was organized through blogs and Twitter. Similar events against "Ozawa-bashing" were held in Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka and Niigata, but ignored by newspapers and television broadcasters.
"One element of the news media is bringing Japanese society back to a condition like in the Second World War," said Sadao Hirano, an Ozawa confidant, during an interview. "The news media suffer from the economic recession, but they have not reformed their own business models hard enough. They hang on to vested interests obtained under previous Japanese governments."
Daniel Leussink is a Dutch journalist in Tokyo, Japan. His website is www.danielleussink.com.
TOKYO — When Tokyo prosecutors arrested an aide to a prominent opposition political leader in March, they touched off a damaging scandal just as the entrenched Liberal Democratic Party seemed to face defeat in coming elections. Many Japanese cried foul, but you would not know that from the coverage by Japan’s big newspapers and television networks.
Instead, they mostly reported at face value a stream of anonymous allegations, some of them thinly veiled leaks from within the investigation, of illegal campaign donations from a construction company to the opposition leader, Ichiro Ozawa. This month, after weeks of such negative publicity, Mr. Ozawa resigned as head of the opposition Democratic Party.
The resignation, too, provoked a rare outpouring of criticism aimed at the powerful prosecutors by Japanese across the political spectrum, and even from some former prosecutors, who seldom criticize their own in public. The complaints range from accusations of political meddling to concerns that the prosecutors may have simply been insensitive to the arrest’s timing.
But just as alarming, say scholars and former prosecutors, has been the failure of the news media to press the prosecutors for answers, particularly at a crucial moment in Japan’s democracy, when the nation may be on the verge of replacing a half-century of Liberal Democratic rule with more competitive two-party politics.
“The mass media are failing to tell the people what is at stake,” said Terumasa Nakanishi, a conservative scholar who teaches international politics at Kyoto University. “Japan could be about to lose its best chance to change governments and break its political paralysis, and the people don’t even know it.”
The arrest seemed to confirm fears among voters that Mr. Ozawa, a veteran political boss, was no cleaner than the Liberal Democrats he was seeking to replace. It also seemed to at least temporarily derail the opposition Democrats ahead of the elections, which must be called by early September. The party’s lead in opinion polls was eroded, though its ratings rebounded slightly after the selection this month of a new leader, Yukio Hatoyama, a Stanford-educated engineer.
Japanese journalists acknowledge that their coverage so far has been harsh on Mr. Ozawa and generally positive toward the investigation, though newspapers have run opinion pieces criticizing the prosecutors. But they bridle at the suggestion that they are just following the prosecutors’ lead, or just repeating information leaked to them.
“The Asahi Shimbun has never run an article based solely on a leak from prosecutors,” the newspaper, one of Japan’s biggest dailies, said in a written reply to questions from The New York Times.
Still, journalists admit that their coverage could raise questions about the Japanese news media’s independence, and not for the first time. Big news organizations here have long been accused of being too cozy with centers of power.
Indeed, scholars say coverage of the Ozawa affair echoes the positive coverage given to earlier arrests of others who dared to challenge the establishment, like the iconoclastic Internet entrepreneur Takafumi Horie.
“The news media should be watchdogs on authority,” said Yasuhiko Tajima, a journalism professor at Sophia University in Tokyo, “but they act more like authority’s guard dogs.”
While news media in the United States and elsewhere face similar criticisms of being too close to government, the problem is more entrenched here. Cozy ties with government agencies are institutionalized in Japan’s so-called press clubs, cartel-like arrangements that give exclusive access to members, usually large domestic news outlets.
Critics have long said this system leads to bland reporting that adheres to the official line. Journalists say they maintain their independence despite the press clubs. But they also say government officials sometimes try to force them to toe the line with threats of losing access to information.
Last month, the Tokyo Shimbun, a smaller daily known for coverage that is often feistier than that in Japan’s large national newspapers, was banned from talking with Tokyo prosecutors for three weeks after printing an investigative story about a governing-party lawmaker who had received donations from the same company linked to Mr. Ozawa.
The newspaper said it was punished simply for reporting something the prosecutors did not want made public. “Crossing the prosecutors is one of the last media taboos,” said Haruyoshi Seguchi, the paper’s chief reporter in the Tokyo prosecutors’ press club.
The news media’s failure to act as a check has allowed prosecutors to act freely without explaining themselves to the public, said Nobuto Hosaka, a member of Parliament for the opposition Social Democratic Party, who has written extensively about the investigation on his blog.
He said he believed Mr. Ozawa was singled out because of the Democratic Party’s campaign pledges to curtail Japan’s powerful bureaucrats, including the prosecutors. (The Tokyo prosecutors office turned down an interview request for this story because The Times is not in its press club.)
Japanese journalists defended their focus on the allegations against Mr. Ozawa, arguing that the public needed to know about a man who at the time was likely to become Japan’s next prime minister. They also say they have written more about Mr. Ozawa because of a pack-like charge among reporters to get scoops on those who are the focus of an investigation.
“There’s a competitive rush to write as much as we can about a scandal,” said Takashi Ichida, who covers the Tokyo prosecutors office for the Asahi Shimbun. But that does not explain why in this case so few Japanese reporters delved deeply into allegations that the company also sent money to Liberal Democratic lawmakers.
The answer, as most Japanese reporters will acknowledge, is that following the prosecutors’ lead was easier than risking their wrath by doing original reporting.
The news media can seem so unrelentingly supportive in their reporting on investigations like that into Mr. Ozawa that even some former prosecutors, who once benefited from such favorable coverage, have begun criticizing them.
“It felt great when I was a prosecutor,” said Norio Munakata, a retired, 36-year veteran Tokyo prosecutor. “But now as a private citizen, I have to say that I feel cheated.”
In September 2009, the Democratic Party won the general elections. For the first time in over half a century, the Conservatives lost their power in both houses and became the opposition party. Some observers thus thought it appropriate to announce to the world that a significant historical event had occurred in Japan, comparable, in some respects, to the Renovation in 1868 of all things! More than a year has passed since the Democrats’ victory and Japanese politics has not changed drastically. Worse still, the State is clearly not committed to democratising the institutions as one might have expected after such a long-awaited change, but rather an authoritarian shift seems to be taking place, which does not bode well for civil liberties and democracy. So what has happened since autumn 2009? Not much, one might be tempted to say, in terms of the Democrats’ promises. The new party in power did plan to introduce fairer redistribution of fiscal resources, by promoting the growth of domestic demand and taking steps to increase the birth rate. Their programme manifestly challenged neo-liberal policies and a return to revised Keynesian policies. Furthermore, the Democrats had promised to renegotiate the status of the Okinawa base with the U.S. and, especially, to put an end to the underhand deals between government officials and major businesses by getting rid of the practice known as amakudari, literally translated as “descent from heaven” (pantouflage in common French [Translator’s note: a practice whereby high-level French civil servants are subsequently employed by a private company. In American English, this can be translated as “the revolving doors”.] ). After a year with the Democrats in power, nothing concrete has been done to achieve any of this. In fact, the members of the Democratic Party who were genuinely determined to change things have been simply ousted. Why and how? To understand the current situation, we have to do a bit of history. We know the role and prestige that officials and administrators in the organisation of the Japanese state have enjoyed since ancient times and their importance even in the feudal Edo period. Confucianism, to which leaders were attached in the past, is nothing more than the ideological justification of bureaucratic elites. At the beginning of the twentieth century, officials serving the country were once again the elite from the Imperial University. The best students naturally looked to the State, which guaranteed them respect, the feeling of being influential and significant rewards. The State was largely controlled by bureaucracy, leaving policies with only a small role to play in important decisions. As they were trained by the University, officials believed they knew the science of the state more than the politicians obsessed with being reelected.
From the 1930s, we are aware of the role that senior government officials from the army play in the State structure. After their victory, the United States began a political purge, dismantling the military, but often got the wrong target, attacking politicians instead of the senior civil servants. Very few of these were actually victims of the purge unlike the politicians. A study of the careers of senior government officials during the period between 1935 and 1955 shows peculiar promotions as if the political events had glossed over them. The most talented senior officials were often sent to Japanese colonies. When they returned to Japan after the war, they were often behind decisions made at the Ministries of Finance, Budget and Industry, which enabled the country to engage in the fast growth of 1960s. Their great victory, so to speak, is to have succeeded in running the country with politicians from the Liberal Democratic Party in an almost perfect and inconspicuous harmony. Conservative leaders, often came from the bureaucracy themselves, ensured the stability of the regime and, subsequently, careers; it was therefore not in the interest of senior civil servants to criticise a system that allowed them to continue. The partnership worked so well that the country enjoyed an economic boom that certain observers at the time believed to be boundless. Nevertheless, the first downfall of the bureaucracy was Kakuei Tanaka’s coming into power in the early 1970s. Uncontrollable by nature and not from the University of Tokyo mould, this ruffled the feathers of the senior officials, who had become comfortable with their stable income. They refused to forgive him and we can safely say that the Lockheed scandal that ended Tanaka’s political career was triggered by leaks from within the State administration. Following this case, new provisions were implemented to increase the powers of a financial police investigation led by public prosecutors, the kensatsu,to oust corrupt politicians from the administration – to the great satisfaction of the public: a "clean" operation against politicians seemed to have been launched. But the problem is that the police, under the supervision of the prosecutors, have considerable investigative power. They may decide to investigate without having to justify themselves, based on documents of which they are not obliged to disclose the source, and may even launch further investigations if the first prove to be unsuccessful. As long as the Conservatives are in power and the agreement between them and the senior officials works, the kensatsu remains moderate in its attacks against politicians, but is nevertheless due to investigations initiated by prosecutors that lead to the fall of certain politicians. Furthermore, investigations also most often target their secretaries or their families and leads to their being discredited. The Democrats' victory, however, in 2009 sounded the beginning of a period of significant unrest in the State administration. In particular, Ichiro Ozawa, a former member of the Tanaka faction, who shifted from the Conservatives to the Democrats and was the true architect of the electoral victory of the Democratic Party, made no secret of his intentions to tighten the reins on the senior officials. For Ozawa, politics must take precedence over bureaucracy, and must comply with directions, and not vice versa. As a result, Ozawa has been subject to senseless bashing by the press and the mainstream media and was deemed corrupt, dangerous and guilty before even being tried. Several investigations on the money Ozawa received were launched, forcing Ozawa to make way for Hatoyama to become Prime Minister instead. From autumn 2009, Ozawa was accused of manipulating the new Prime Minister, who also found himself faced with a financial scandal over his campaign accounts, following an investigation launched by a prosecutor. During the summer of 2010, the campaign caused fierce competition within the Democratic Party for leadership, and thus the position of Prime Minister, between Naoto Kan and Ichiro Ozawa, who continues to be portrayed across the board as a guilty and corrupt politician. Kan won the party's internal elections in September and on the 4th of October, 2010, Ozawa who had already been the subject of several unsuccessful investigations from the kensatsu was charged this time, which means he will probably be forced to abandon his position as deputy. Ozawa's career is currently seriously damaged. This case highlights an obvious shift among the Japanese government. How and why can some prosecutors initiate investigations against individuals without any restrictions – be they politicians suspected of corruption – conduct searches without scruples and relaunch investigations when the first did not provide convincing evidence? Why do the press and the media broadcast accusations that leak from the Department of Justice without ever attempting to initiate counter-investigations and doing their job as an investigative reporter properly? Sickened by the servility of the major press bosses towards officials and prosecutors, journalists are increasingly leaving the official media for alternative media on the internet through various blogs and videos. A counter-power is thus slowly gaining force, denouncing the mass gomi (pun on mass media and mass bins) and striking out against the fascist kensatsu. A demonstration against the authority of the prosecutors was held on the 24th of October which was simply organised over the Internet, and other similar events are planned. One may think that the movement "to put a stop to the State prosecutors” condemning the risk of dictatorship will spread despite the official boycott.
Demonstration on the 24th of October. The placards read:
'Down with kensatsu fascism!'
'The media are liars!'
'Charging Ozawa is disgraceful!'
(2010, all rights reserved)
Just when the Kan government is adding insult to injury in terms of relations with China and ranks shamelessly on the positions of American neo-conservatives – while Ozawa wanted to restore the balance in relations between Beijing and Tokyo –, when some ministers from the Democrats are raising the possibility of transforming the self-defense forces into a real army and economic recovery through the redeployment of an export-oriented military industry, it is not surprising that the United States has openly shown their support for Kan against his rival. At a time when the sound of nationalist boots is resurfacing in the Far East with the tense relations between China and its neighbours and the unpredictable actions of the North Korean regime, it is urgent that Japanese citizens voice their opinion once again to demonstrate their commitment to civil liberties, freedom of expression and a policy that will guarantee peace in the region. The author Pierre- François Souyri is a professor at the University of Geneva where he teaches Japanese history. He has also lectured at INALCO. His latest book, Nouvelle Histoire du Japon (A New History of Japan), “reflects, more than anything else, the great dynamism of the Japanese school of history, the wealth and diversity of studies that have been done on the archipelago in recent decades, revealing an unfamiliar country. By including this considerable knowledge, Nouvelle Histoire du Japon, which begins in prehistoric times and ends in the manga era, offers an intriguing and fresh insight on a society that never ceases to amaze”.
Tokyo Shinbun, primera página. Primero de mayo 2010. (Periódico de Tokyo).
El ex-secretario del Gabinete (Partido Liberal Democráctico que gobernó durante más de 50 años en Japón), Hiromu Nonaka (84 años) divulgó durante la entrevista acordada a la prensa, Kyodo Tsushin el 30 de abril 2010.-: “Durante mi mandato, solía gastar mensualmente, desde las arcas secretas del Gabinete de Ministerios, 50 millones de yens (430.000 euros) al menos, y subía la cantidad a veces hasta 70 millones de yens (599.300 euros)”.
Hablando de modo más detallado, Nonaka precisó.-: “Distribuía así mensualmente dinero de las arcas secretas:
-10.000.000 de yens (85.600 euros) al primer ministro.
-5.000.000 de yens (43.000 euros) tanto al jefe parlamentario PLD como al vice-secretario del Gainete que estaban encargados del trato con la Oposición.
-Cierta cantidad se distribuía también a los críticos políticos y a los diputados de la Oposición.
Los costes de las arcas secretas están presupuestadas cada año en unos mil millones de yens (unos diez millones de euros), pero es verdaderamente excepcional que un ex-secretario del Gabinete haya divulgado la destinación de este dinero.
Sr. Nonaka ha dado un paso más adelante con más detalles.-:
-Un ex-político que se ha convertido ahora en el cometarista político llamó por teléfono al primer ministro de entonces, Obuchi Keizo, exigiéndole implícitamente regalar 30.000.000 yens (257.000 euros), ya que “Se me caba de construir una nueva casa”
-Un diputado de la Oposición le exigió a Nonaka dinero de las arcas secretas, comentándole: “Voy a ir a saludarle ahora, porque dentro de poco me voy a Corea del Norte.
Sr. Nonaka ha seguido con su testmonio.-: “Recibí de parte del anterior secretario del Gabinete una lista de comentaristas políticos, acompañada de instrucciones que precisaban la cantidad de dinero que se tendría que destinar a cada comentarista político” y “el único comentarista que rechazó este dinero fue el periodista, Soichiro Tahara”
A renglón seguido después de estos comentarios, ha recalcado Sr. Nonaka.-: “Se acaba de llevar a cabo el cambio del poder político en este país. Lo he confesado, porque deseo del más profundo de mi corazón que esta mala práctica habitual desaparezca”
(¡O sea que gran mayoría de periodistas, comentaristas TV, cómicos famosos de TV que actuan también como comentaristas, presentadores TV, etc... están todos implicados en esta corrupción! Se trata de un escalofriante paisaje de la corrución generalizada de Japón que sigue desde al menos 1970. Pese a todo, lo más escandaloso es que tanto la prensa escrita (todos los periódicos de gran tirada) como todas las cadenas de TV no hacen caso a esta declaración del Sr. Nonaka y machacan intencionadamente cette información por temor a que sus periodistas, comentaristas, presentadores TV, y cómicos famosos-comentaristas políticos que trabajan para ganar audiencia sean salpicados en esta corrupción de mega-toneladas. Este testimonio del Sr. Nonaka corresponde a una auténtica bomba política e histórica debido a su contenido, ya que gran mayoría de peridodistas, críticos políticos, comentaristas TV y presentadores de programas de TV están implicados en este asunto y que tendrían que desaparecer de la escena de medio de comunicación.
Lamentablemente, en Japón es casi imposibe que se desate un escándalo de envergadura equivalente al de “Watergate”, ya que incluso los medios de comunicación están seriamente corruptos. Tampoco sale, de momento, ni un periodista japonés que clame valientemente contra este mayor escádalo histórico que no podría existir en los países avanzados sin que se convierta en un auténtico escándalo del siglo. Nos encontramos delante la situación que pide de verdad que aparezca un verdadero héroe como Sakamoto Ryoma sobre la escena política. –Comentarios hechos por Toshio Okada)
Tokyo Shinbun, première page. le Premier Mai, 2010. (Journal de Tokyo).
L’ex-secrétaire du Cabinet de ministres (Parti Liberal Démocratique qui avait gouverné plus de 50 ans au Japón), Hiromu Nonaka (84 ans) a divulgué au cours de son dernier interview accordé au journal, Kyodo Tsushin tenu le 30 avril, 2010: “Pendant que durait mon mandat, j’avais l’habitude de dépenser mensuellement, à partir du coffre-fort du Cabinet, 50 milliones de yens (430.000 euros) au moins, et la somme montait parfois à 70 milliones de yens (599.300 euros).
M. Nonaka ha précisé avec plus de détails: “Je distribuyais tous les mois de l’argent du coffre-fort secret à cette manière:
-10.000.000 yens (85.600 euros) au premier ministre.
-5.000.000 yens (43.000 euros) aussi bien au chef parmentaire PLD comme au secrétaire en chef-adjoint du Cabinet de Ministres qui etaient chargés du traitement de l’Oposition.
-Aussi une certaine quantité était distribuyée aux critiques politiques ainsi qu’ aux députés de la Oposition.
Les coûts du coffre-fort secret sont budgetisés chaque année avec autour de quelques mil millions de yens (quelques dix millions de euros), mais il est vraiment exceptionnel qu’ un ex-secrétaire du Cabinet ait divulgué la destination de cet argent.
M. Nonaka a donné un pas de plus avec plus de détails:
-Un ex-politique qui travaille actuellemet comme commentateur politique avait téléphoné au premier ministre d’alors, et lui avait demandé implicitement de faire cadeau de 30.000.000 yens (257.000 euros), parce que sa nouvelle maison vient d’ être construite.
-Un député de l’Oposition lui avait exigé carrément de l’argent du coffre-fort secret, en disant: “je vais vous saluer maintenant, parce que dans quelques jours j’irai au Corée du nord”
M. Nonaka poursuit son témoignage: “J’avais reçu de la part de l’anterieur secrétaire en chef du Cabinet de ministres une liste de commentateurs politiques, acompagnée de instructions qui précisaient la quantité d’argent qui devrait être destinée a chaque commentateur politique” et “le seul commentateur qui avait refusé cet argent était le journaliste, Soichiro Tahara”
Peu après ces commentaires, M. Nonaka a souligné: “Il vient d’être realisé le changement du pouvoir au Japón. J’en ai fait cette confession, parce que je souhaite du plus profond de mon coeur que cette mauvaise pratique habituelle disparaisse”
(C’est à dire qu’una grande majorité de journalistes, commentateurs, vedettes comiques de TV qui travaillent comme commentateurs politiques, présentateurs de programmes TV, etc…sont tous impliqués dans cette affaire! Il s’agit d’un paysage choquant de la corrupción géneralisée du Japón qui dure depuis au moins 1970. Pourtant, le plus scandaleux est le fait suivant: aussi bien la presse écrite (tous les journaux de gran tirage) comme toutes les chaînes de TV ne font aucun cas a cette déclaration de M. Nonaka et étouffent de façon intentionnnée cette information dans le hermétisme, de peur que leurs journalistes, commentateurs, présentateurs TV, et fameux comiques-commentateurs politiques qui collaborent pour faire gagner de l’audience aux chaînes de TV, soient impliqués dans cette corruption de méga tonnes. Ce témoignage du M. Nonaka constitue una vraie bombe politique y historique, dû a son contenu, étant donné que les nombreux journalistes et commentateurs TV sont corrompus et que ils seraient obligés de disparaître de la secene journalistique.
Hélas, au Japón il est pratiquement impossible de faire éclater un scandal d’envergure équivalent à celui de “Watergate”, étant donné que el masmedia est serieusememt corrompu. Jusque maintenant, on n’a vu aucun journaliste qui sorte audacieusement sur la scène politique pour clamer contre ce gran scandal historique qui ne pourrait pas exister dans un pays qui préconise porte-drapeau démocratique, sans devenir un vrai scandal du siècle. On se trouve vraiment devant une situation qui demande la apparition d’un gran héros comme Sakamoto Ryoma. –Commentaires faits par Toshio Okada)
9 de mayo 2010, Barcelona
A political slush fund in Japan
If you pay more than peanuts
You may get wise monkeys: the Japanese press ignores a juicy story
May 20th 2010 TOKYO From The Economist print edition
IN MANY parts of the world, journalists would be unable to resist a good political slush-fund scandal. In Japan, information is dribbling out about a murky stash of cash kept in a black box near the prime minister’s office that for decades has been used to curry political favour—even, it is said, among journalists and television commentators. Tellingly, the Japanese media are reacting to the scandal like the three wise monkeys of Nikko: see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.
The existence of the fund has long been known to insiders. Now, for the first time, a sitting government has admitted to its existence. In a letter to the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) on May 14th, Hirofumi Hirano, chief cabinet secretary in the government of Yukio Hatoyama, has confirmed he withdrew ¥360m ($3.8m) between September and March, and returned an unused portion of just ¥16m to the exchequer. Asked by a JCP lawmaker in parliament in March what record he had kept of the expenditure, he helpfully replied: “It is in my mind.”
Mr Hirano says he has no plans for the time being to disclose what the money was spent on, for fear of damaging “the national interest”. Nor does he expect to stop dipping into the pot. He also appeared reluctant to investigate the outgoing administration of Taro Aso, which raided the fund last year just before it handed over power to Mr Hatoyama. Two days after the election, and two weeks before leaving office, it withdrew ¥250m.
The mainstream press has been strangely reticent on the matter. Besides a long article in the Communist-leaning RedFlag, the scandal has received just snippets of coverage in national newspapers. That may be for fear of being smeared by their own story. Last month, Hiromu Nonaka, one of Mr Hirano’s predecessors as chief cabinet secretary, revealed that between 1998 and 1999 he spent up to ¥70m ($600,000 at the exchange rate of the time) per month from his secret little piggy bank. That included ¥10m for the prime minister and ¥10m for politicians in the then-ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). But it also included money strewn among press commentators and members of opposition parties. Some was splurged on sending them on trips to North Korea.
The 84-year-old Mr Nonaka made the confession, he said, because he did not want to carry the secret to the grave about what he rightly referred to as taxpayers’ money. But he may have been making mischief, too, for Mr Hatoyama’s Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which drove the LDP from power last year on a platform of transparency and accountability.
Takao Toshikawa, editor of Tokyo Inside Line, a political newsletter, who once wrote a book on slush funds, says he doubts pay-offs still go to the media. But he adds that there is a rumour that some slush-fund largesse has been lavished on wining and dining residents of Okinawa, notably those who oppose the government’s plan to relocate an American marine base on their island.
Some people might shrug off such funds as part of the old Japanese tradition of gift-giving, albeit involving some rather generous presents. But for a government that has long promised to dig up the “buried treasure” hidden in such secret accounts to improve public finances, it is extraordinary that it, too, is taking such brazen advantage of this darkest of slush funds. Just as extraordinary, not to mention suspicious, is the impressive silence from most of the powerful mass media. More evidence, if it were needed, of the central role they play in Japan’s longstanding political dysfunction.