TV & Radio
Last Updated: Saturday, 28 October 2006, 16:46 GMT 17:46 UK
Transgender MP in toilet fracas
An Italian opposition MP and former showgirl has expressed outrage after meeting a transgender colleague in the parliament's ladies' toilets.
Elisabetta Gardini, spokeswoman for former PM Silvio Berlusconi's party, said she felt ill after the encounter during a break in Friday's session.
The incident led to heated debate about which toilet the transgender MP, known as Vladimir Luxuria, could use.
Ms Luxuria says she has been using ladies' toilets for years.
Using the men's would have created even bigger problems, she said.
The matter has now been passed to parliamentary procedural officials to resolve.
Ms Gardini said she had been horrified to find Ms Luxuria in the toilets.
"It never entered my mind that I'd find him in there", she said. "It felt like sexual violence - I really felt ill."
Centre-right MPs backed her call for the creation of a third "transgender" toilet, Reuters news agency said.
But ruling coalition deputies accused Ms Gardini of discrimination tantamount to racism.
Ms Luxuria said she had not expected such aggression in the parliament.
Born Wladimiro Guadagno, Ms Luxuria wears women's clothes but has not had sex-change surgery.
A 40-year-old former drag queen and prominent gay rights activist, she was elected MP for the Communist Refoundation, a member of Prime Minister Romano Prodi's centre-left coalition, in April.
Shinzo Abe Pressures Public Broadcaster
[Opinion] Prime minister will order NHK to 'pay attention' to the North Korean Abductions issue
Christopher Salzberg (gyaku)
In a move that immediately sparked protests, Japan's new prime minister Abe Shinzo, less than a month after taking office, has declared that his government will direct "special orders" to the influential public broadcaster NHK demanding that it "pay attention" to the North Korea abductions issue. [1,2]
Associated Press reports that "the Ministry of Internal Affairs will ask a regulatory council to approve ordering state-owned Japan Broadcasting Corp., or NHK, to boost coverage of abductions in its overseas shortwave radio broadcasts," in order to, among other things, "raise international awareness of the abductees' plight," according to ministry official Osumi Yutaka. Abe told reporters that the government must take "appropriate action as we think about what can be done for the sake of the victims who are waiting in North Korea for us to rescue them." In response, NHK stated that it already gives enough attention to the abductions issue and that it aimed to continue to do so under "independent editorship." 
The move met with widespread hostility, drawing criticism even from within Abe's own Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Internal Affairs Minister Katayama Toranosuke, who has himself previously issued orders to NHK, drew a distinction, noting that his orders had been "in general and abstract terms," and that he had "to a large extent left it to NHK's independent judgment" to make changes.  Indeed, the ministry has in the past restricted its orders to requests for increased public-interest programs related to government policies and views.  Katayama argued that "it's sufficient for the government to convey its position in other ways," and wondered if directly interfering in NHK's affairs will be "a good thing and if it will be acceptable [to the public]."  The leader of the main opposition Democratic Party Ozawa Ichiro was less diplomatic, stating that he "question[s] the government using its authority to unilaterally push national policy."  Hattori Takaaki, a professor of broadcasting systems at Rikkyo University, attacked the move as going "against the principles of Article 1 of the Broadcast Law, which stipulates political neutrality and freedom of expression." 
The abductions issue centers on a series of kidnappings of Japanese civilians by North Korean agents in the period between 1977 and 1983, involving (according to Japan) 16 abductees and (according to North Korea) eight deaths.
Abe's predecessor, Koizumi Junichiro, had managed in 2002 to extract an oral apology from Korean leader Kim Jong Il and to secure temporary release of five of the victims, who returned to Japan on Oct. 15 of the same year. Yet the Japanese government, before the five had even set foot on Japanese soil, made a decision to renege on its promise, refusing to return the abductees and effectively putting an end to chances for a possible reconciliation. Relations between the two countries have since considerably worsened, as Japan -- under pressure from groups representing the victims' families, championed by Abe and his supporters -- has cynically used the threat of sanctions and freezing of humanitarian aid to precipitate "regime change,"  much to the approval of Japan's U.S. allies. 
The abduction tragedy has been a boon for Abe, whose "hardline" stance against Pyongyang, repeatedly praised by the Japanese media, has elevated a little-known politician with a lackluster career to the status of national hero. Much of this "meteoric rise" -- the term used by Mainichi Shimbun, a faithful supporter  -- is thanks to a crassly opportunistic strategy of capitalizing on small-scale, politically-convenient misery to cover up for massive state and corporate misdeeds.
As McNeill observes: "Day after day for five years, every tiny development in the abduction drama has been obsessively played out here in the media," at the expense of "more deadly issues affecting Japan that have yet to receive anywhere near the same lavish media attention." Domestically, such issues include, for example, the link between smoking and cancer, covered roughly 20 times less than the story of Yokota Megumi -- the most famous of the abductee cases -- alone. While killing 100,000 people annually in Japan, the cancer connection, were it to be extensively covered, would certainly cut into the profits of Japan Tobacco, the third largest tobacco manufacturer in the world, who understandably prefers these victims not be granted "appropriate action." 
At an international level, the hypocrisy is significantly more acute. The Japanese government's continued refusal to address its war crimes stands in stark contrast to its international reputation as a "peace-loving nation" -- a reputation due in no small part to its pacifist constitution, the preamble of which Abe refers to as "degrading."  In contrast to the Japanese abductees, who number at most 80 in total, over one million Koreans were forcefully taken to Japan to service the military industry, mainly working in mines under miserable conditions. Former slaves, moreover, include not only Koreans, but also Chinese, Filipino, Taiwanese, Thai, Australian, British, and Dutch, to name a few. As Christopher Reed writes:
"A major argument of those seeking redress from a shamefully reluctant Japan, is that while it has made numerous 'apologies' of varying sincerity, none amounts to proper atonement. And atonement includes financial compensation of which, it is estimated, Japan has paid one percent of Germany's disbursements." 
Arguments that critics are "hung up" on history and should "move on"  -- wake up, in other words, and welcome the "brave new Japan" of Abe Shinzo  -- fail to acknowledge, or simply willfully ignore, the pre-war and post-war inter-generational continuity that lines the pockets of leading LDP politicians and increasingly subverts the democratic process.
Abe's admiration of his "statesman" grandfather Kishi Nobusuke, a class-A war criminal directly involved in the forcible abduction of thousands of Chinese workers to Japan in the midst of the war,  stands as one striking example of this legacy; Foreign Minister Aso Taro's steadfast refusal to acknowledge (let alone pay compensation for) the crimes of his family business, Aso Group (formerly Aso Mining Co.), a company that profited handsomely from the forced labor of 12,000 Koreans "compelled to work under grotesque conditions,"  is another.
And there are many more. According to William Underwood, a researcher investigating Japan's wartime forced labour, most of the profits from these wartime exploits are "probably still sitting in Japan's Postal Savings accounts ... including unpaid money for the much larger contingent of Asian slave workers forcibly taken to Japan ... worth today about $2 billion." 
Considering this record, it is not surprising that leading members of the LDP wish to focus attention away from less savory aspects of Japan's wartime past. Current pressure on NHK to "pay attention" to Japanese victims recalls equally direct -- if less overt -- attempts five years earlier by Abe and his associate Nakagawa Shoichi, both prominent members of the "Association to Consider the Future Path for Japan and History Education," to censor the contents of a film about Korean wartime sex-slaves ("comfort women").
As Gavan McCormack recounts, the film, scheduled to be broadcast in January 2001 and featuring proceedings of a civil tribunal convened in Tokyo one month earlier, was subjected to a series of last-minute changes "in a state of semi-siege, as rightists mobilized and sound trucks circled the NHK building blaring hostile messages and employees were jostled and abused as they entered or left the premises."  Days before the film was to go on air, Abe and Nakagawa met with senior executives of NHK, demanding major alterations that included insertion of "an interview with Hata Ikuhiko, a nationalist historian who denied that there had ever been a system of sexual slavery, and some gratuitously irrelevant footage of U.S. bombers in action over Vietnam." Henry Laurence writes that the tone of the film "changed from one basically sympathetic to the goals of Tribunal to one that was broadly negative and much closer in line to the government policy on the reparations issue."  Despite having openly violated both the Japanese Constitution and the Broadcast Law, when confronted and forced to admit his meddling, Abe was remarkably frank, declaring: "I found out that the contents were clearly biased and told [NHK] that it should be broadcast from a fair and neutral viewpoint, as it is expected to."  Needless to say, the media did not pursue the issue, leaving Abe to go on with his career, unscathed.
NHK censorship is unfortunately symptomatic of a transformation ongoing in Japanese society that threatens to completely sanitize or otherwise eliminate the few remaining public forums available for open and critical discussion. Only two months ago, one such forum, an online journal run by the Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA), was forced to issue an apology after featuring a number of pieces critical of government policies. Particularly fiercely targeted was an article by the journal's editor Tamamoto Masaru, described in attacks as "a radical left scholar," expressing concern for Japan's new "hawkish nationalism." As McNeill noted at the time:
"Many foreign academics and journalists found the JIIA articles, which began to appear in April 2006, to be thoughtful, at times independent or even critical attempts to engage Japan's undigested history, growing diplomatic assertiveness and increasingly troubled relations with China, Korea and much of East Asia. They were widely read, quoted, and discussed."
The articles received a somewhat less positive response from correspondent Komori Yoshihisa of the nationalist Sankei Shimbun, who decried the use of public money to attack "the thinking of the government and ruling camp." A public relations onslaught followed, prompting JIIA to shut the site, only to later re-open with all copies of the texts removed. 
Komori's attacks represent the diplomatic front for a violent undercurrent in modern Japanese politics. Around the same time as the JIIA incident, an official from an ultra-right wing organization set fire to the countryside home of Kato Koichi, an LDP member who had openly voiced criticisms of Koizumi's visits to the Yasukuni shrine.
Numerous prominent public figures have in recent years faced similar retaliation for publicly opposing a xenophobic and historically myopic vision, currently gaining popularity thanks to generous corporate backing, of Japan as moving "toward a beautiful nation." As Steven Clemens explains, promoted by Abe and enforced by "an increasingly militant group of extreme right-wing activists," supporters of this vision "yearn for a return to 1930s-style militarism, emperor-worship and 'thought control'." Having found "mutualism in the media," this group has "begun to move into more mainstream circles -- and to attack those who don't see things their way," notably on questions of "Japan's national identity, war responsibility [and its] imperial system."
At least as reprehensible as any one of the North Korean kidnappings, incidents of intimidation are given implicit backing by leading politicians, who fail to publicly denounce them and even occasionally voice support. When Deputy Foreign Minister Tanaka Hitoshi discovered a time bomb in his home in 2003, allegedly for being soft on North Korea, Tokyo mayor Ishihara Shintaro famously declared that Tanaka "had it coming."  An editorial in The Hankyoreh noted the double-standard:
"It is a bad omen when the same politicians who have taken the lead in defining North Korea's kidnapping of Japanese citizens as 'state terror,' and have used the issue to promote a hardline stance towards Pyongyang, become mere onlookers when the Japanese right commits political terrorism." 
Pressure on NHK to fall in line with the narrow views of the LDP leadership -- in other words, adopt this double-standard -- is part of a larger strategy to cover-up complicity in a historical legacy of corruption and war crimes. In its eagerness to target an easy scapegoat in the form of a bankrupt and dysfunctional dictatorship, the Abe government has descended to a level of moral hypocrisy roughly on par with the vision of "pride" trumpeted and enforced by its yakuza and ultra-nationalist supporters. If this is an indication of the "freedom of expression" that must be honored "at all times," terms given generous lip service in defense of the new policy , then one might reasonably expect more of the same tactics to come.
 "State pushes abductions show on NHK," Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 14, 2006.
 "Japan to order more public media coverage of North Korea abductees," International Herald Tribune, Oct. 24, 2006.
 "Gov't to order NHK to air abductions, triggers press freedom concern," Kyodo News, Oct. 24, 2006.
 Wada Haruki, "Recovering a Lost Opportunity: Japan-North Korea Negotiations in the Wake of the Iraqi War," Sekai (translated by Mark Caprio for Japan Focus), May 3, 2003.
 Jim Lobe, "U.S. Neo-Conservatives Call for Japanese Nukes, Regime Change in North Korea," Japan Focus, Oct. 19, 2006.
 "Abe was born to become a prime minister," Mainichi Daily News, Sept. 21, 2006.
 "Japan media focus blurred on big issues," The Japan Times, Aug. 8, 2006.
 "Mr. Abe's worrisome plan for Japan," Japan Times, Sept. 21, 2006.
 Christopher Reed, "Japan Howls About 70 North Korea Abductions, Not Sorry About its One Million Korean Slaves," Counterpunch, Feb. 2, 2006.
 Bruce Wallace and Mark Magnier, "Abe's Visits Signal Neighbors' Desire to Mend Fences," Los Angeles Times, Oct. 6, 2006.
 Anthony Faiola, "Japan's Abe, Poised to Lead, Offers Nation Vision of Pride," The Washington Post, Sept. 19, 2006.
 William Underwood, "The Japanese Court, Mitsubishi and Corporate Resistance to Chinese Forced Labor Redress," Japan Focus, Mar. 29, 2006.
 Christopher Reed, "Japan Nixes Payments to Wartime Slaves," Counterpunch, June 20, 2006.
 Gavan McCormack, "War and Japan's Memory Wars," ZNet, Jan. 29, 2005.
 Henry Laurence, "Censorship at NHK and PBS," Japan Policy Research Institute Critique 7(3), April 2005.
 "NHK censored TV show due to 'political pressure'," The Japan Times, Jan. 14, 2005.
 David McNeill, "The Struggle for the Japanese Soul: Komori Yoshihisa, Sankei Shimbun, and the JIIA controversy," ZNet, Sept. 6, 2006.
 Steven Clemens, "The Rise of Japan's Thought Police," Washington Post, Aug. 27, 2006.
 "Japan's difficult drive to be a 'beautiful country'," The Hankyoreh, Sept. 2, 2006.
2006/10/28 오후 12:24
© 2006 Ohmynews
Revisionists damaging Japan
By HUGH CORTAZZI
LONDON -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has the reputation of being a tough nationalist. So far, however, he has shown himself to be a pragmatist in foreign-policy issues. His early visits to China and South Korea demonstrated that he wants to improve bilateral relations, which have soured in recent years. He has wisely eschewed mention of the Yasukuni issue. He realizes the vital importance of the U.S. relationship and understandably takes a tough line on North Korea.
But there have recently been some developments, apparently reflecting a recrudescence of rightwing nationalism, that are potentially damaging to Japan's world image. I was disturbed to see recently a report of a discussion between Sophia University professor emeritus Shoichi Watanabe and Foreign Minister Taro Aso in which the foreign minister and his conservative interlocutor made remarks that suggest that they take a revisionist view of Japanese history.
Watanabe once again attempted to deny known facts about the Nanjing Massacre and urged the foreign minister to promote his revisionist theories of history. The foreign minister's failure to reject Watanabe's proposals and his general line in the interview suggests that he is also a historical revisionist. The emphasis on Japanese uniqueness and on the Shinto view of life and death read very oddly.
The publication of this interview and its republication in Japan Echo, a Japanese government publication, in English is unhelpful to Japan's international image. Unfortunately the attitudes displayed in this interview have been echoed in other developments that indicate a growing sensitivity in Japanese official circles about any criticism, Japanese or foreign, of Japanese policies and increasing signs that elements in the Japanese government favor the revisionists' view of history.
A Washington correspondent for Sankei Shimbun, Yoshihisa Komori, who also denies the Nanjing Massacre and is renowned for his nationalist if not rightist views, recently criticized the Japanese Institute of International Affairs (JIIA) for publishing on its Web site articles critical of aspects of Japanese foreign policy and of politicians visiting Yasukuni Shrine. He was especially scathing about anything being published that suggested that the deterioration in relations between Japan and China might in part be due to actions taken by Japanese politicians.
JIIA President Ambassador Yukio Sato, presumably under pressure from his paymasters in the Foreign Ministry, wrote an article for Sankei in which he apologized for publishing such articles and said that he had deleted critical articles from his association's Web site.
I have great respect for Sato and know him to be an honorable man. I cannot believe that he would have allowed material on his Web site that was critical of Japan unless he felt that the issues raised in these articles deserved to be openly discussed. If serious issues cannot be debated in a reasonable way and if critical opinions are suppressed, the organization responsible for censoring such opinions will inevitably be seen as another Japanese government mouthpiece and its articles are likely to be disregarded as mere propaganda.
In an Aug. 27 Washington Post article titled "The Rise of Japan's Thought Police," writer Steven Clemons, director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation and cofounder of the Japan Policy Research Institute, referred to "an increasingly militant group of rightwing activists who yearn for a return to 1930s style militarism, emperor-worship and 'thought-control.' "
My immediate reaction when I read this sentence was that Clemons was surely exaggerating the dangers, but I began to wonder whether my reaction was correct when I read further about actions, allegedly taken by Japanese rightists, against Japanese critics of Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni Shrine. Clemons mentioned, in particular, attacks on Koichi Kato, a senior member of the governing Liberal Democratic Party, and Yotaro Kobayashi, chairman of Fuji Xerox and a leading internationalist businessman. Both apparently received death threats from rightists and had been targeted by arsonists and fire bombs. I was also concerned to learn that Sumiko Iwao, a leading Japanese feminist, had been threatened by Japanese rightists for suggesting sensibly that it was time for Japan to endorse female succession in the Imperial line.
I don't think that Japan will revert to what prewar British journalist Hugh Byas termed "government by assassination," but the Japanese authorities if only to demonstrate that they believe firmly in free speech and human rights should crack down hard on such threats and ensure that they allow and encourage a proper debate on serious issues. The right way to deal with historical controversies is to carry out objective studies of history such as those promoted by former Prime Minister Tomoichi Murayama.
Japanese politicians and journalists make a mistake if they think that the Yasukuni issue only concerns China and Korea. There are many friends of Japan in both Britain and the United States who are deeply troubled by the way Japanese politicians have paid official visits to this shrine. In Article 11 of the Treaty of Peace with Japan signed at San Francisco in 1951, Japan accepted the judgments of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. This means that the Japanese government accepted that the leaders who were condemned by the court had committed serious crimes.
Official visits to Yasukuni, where these criminals are enshrined, suggest that the Japanese government no longer upholds this provision in the Treaty of Peace and implicitly condones the actions for which they were condemned. In the view of many observers such visits are also contrary to Article 20 of the Constitution on the separation of state and religion.
More important is the existence of Yasukuni Shrine's Yushukan Museum, which seems to glorify war and ignores the sufferings caused by war to Japanese and foreign peoples alike, contrary to the spirit of Article 9 of the Constitution and to Japan's aspirations for world peace.
I write as a friend of Japan and an admirer of Japanese culture. I do not want to see Japan dominated by extremists or old-fashioned nationalists. I hope that this will not happen, but Japanese need to be on their guard.
Hugh Cortazzi, a former British career diplomat, served as ambassador to Japan from 1980 to 1984.
The Japan Times: Thursday, Oct. 26, 2006
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