Japanese politicians cause newspaper strikes

[Tokyo] – Several of Japan’s main newspapers, including the Yomiuri, Asahi, and Mainichi newspapers, have issued statements protesting against the behaviour of Japan’s politicians.

Instead of the usual newspapers, tomorrow they will hand out a free, single page, special issue, containing a open letter addressed mainly at Osaka’s Mayor, Toru Hashimoto, and this year’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe.

Hashimoto sparked world-wide criticism earlier this week by commenting on the necessity of the “comfort woman” system during World War II. Just one day later, pictures appeared of a smiling Prime Minister Abe seated inside a training jet marked by the number 731, a potential reference to Unit 731. Unit 731 was a secret Japanese biological and chemical warfare research facility that was active during the war.

In the open letter, the Japanese newspapers heavily criticize both politicians. “They put us in a very difficult position”, one editor told us. “On the one hand, they want us to portay a bad picture of China and South Korea, but on the other hand they want us to keep silent about Japan’s dirty past”. “We just barely managed to spin Hashimoto’s remarks into a rant against the US military presence in Okinawa, as usual, but what shall we do with Abe’s picture?”, the visibly irritated editor continued. “We see no other way but to give a minimal amount of background information on Unit 731.”

Several chief-editors, however, expressed their concern about giving their Japanese readers such raw facts about the war. “Telling them the truth now might become a dangerous precedent. We might be forced to tell the the truth again someday,” said the editor-in-chief of one newspaper. “In Japan we value traditions highly, and we have no tradition of telling the truth in newspapers”, he concluded.

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