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Asahi retracts article

September 11, 2014

Asahi retracts article about Yoshida testimony that reported ‘workers withdrew against order’



Tadakazu Kimura, president of The Asahi Shimbun, held a Sept. 11 news conference at which he retracted an article (English translation at AJW) that appeared in the morning edition of May 20, 2014, reporting on the testimony provided by Masao Yoshida, the plant manager of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. The testimony was compiled by the government’s Investigation Committee on the Accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Stations of Tokyo Electric Power Co.

Kimura also apologized to readers and individuals with ties to TEPCO.

In addition to relieving Nobuyuki Sugiura as executive editor, Kimura said he would decide on whether to resign after he has set the course for reform and revitalization of the daily. He will not receive any remuneration as president during the period.

The Asahi independently obtained the Yoshida testimony at a time when the central government had still not released it. On the front and other pages of its May 20, 2014, edition, the Asahi reported “about 650 TEPCO and other workers, or 90 percent of the total number who were at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant on the morning of March 15, 2011, four days after the Great East Japan Earthquake, went against the order of Yoshida to wait for further instructions and withdrew to the Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant 10 kilometers to the south.”

However, as a result of a detailed internal examination, the judgment was made that there was no corroborating evidence for the headline or article contents related to “withdrawing against the order.”

It was a mistaken article that gave the impression that many plant workers had fled while knowing about the order given by Yoshida.

The judgment was made that the reasons for this occurrence were that the team of reporters working on the Yoshida testimony made the wrong appraisal in the course of reading and trying to understand the document, and the checking function did not operate sufficiently because only a small number of reporters shared the information due to excessive concerns for protecting the source of the information.

The Asahi will continue with its investigation into the course of events that led to the article. But taking into account the seriousness of the situation and from the standpoint of the effects of the article and the problems associated with the information-gathering and reporting, the Asahi has asked the Press and Human Rights Committee, an internal third-party organ, to conduct an examination of the matter.

At the same time, Kimura touched upon the recent decision by the Asahi to retract articles related to testimony judged to be a fabrication by the late Seiji Yoshida about forcibly taking away “comfort women” from Jeju Island, South Korea. The testimony was used in past reporting about comfort women.

“I would like to apologize to the readers for having failed to issue the correction earlier,” Kimura said.

Regarding past reporting on comfort women, the Asahi will set up a new third-party organ apart from the Press and Human Rights Committee. The new organ will consist of experts outside of the Asahi, such as lawyers, historians and journalists.

The panel will be asked to conduct a thorough examination, based on the voices of doubt that have been submitted to the Asahi, and look into such issues as the process behind the writing of the past articles and the developments that led to the correction; the appropriateness of the recent special coverage; and the effects that Asahi’s reporting on the comfort women had on relations between Japan and South Korea and in the international community.

The Asahi will ask the panel to conduct its examination in a prompt manner, and it will present the results in the pages of the Asahi.

The Asahi will set up a committee centered on the new executive editor to work toward regaining trust and revitalization. The committee will check and examine the problems that have emerged in the course of past information-gathering and reporting as well as consider what is required to regain the trust of readers and use those results in Asahi’s future newspaper coverage.

President Kimura's statement at (http://digital.asahi.com/articles/SDI201409125171.html?iref=comtop_pickup_01

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