- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 14, 2006

Hiroyuki Shinoda, editor of monthly magazine “Tsukuru,” which covers the media industry, spoke to Washington Times reporter Takehiko Kambayashi about Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe’s popularity and the Japanese media.

Question: Many agree Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is good at managing the media. Will Mr. Abe, who is most likely to succeed him, try to follow his style?

Answer: Since Mr. Abe wants to take over Mr. Koizumi’s popularity, he will. Though Mr. Koizumi was very skillful at handling the media, I don’t expect Mr. Abe to do the same. Mr. Abe’s popularity has been propped up by a sort of nationalism, his strong stance against North Korea. Mr. Koizumi maintained his popularity, staying in power, but that is not likely the case with Mr. Abe. Many people have supported Mr. Abe, who is going to construct a strong country based on his view of the state. But, if he goes too far, he could lose steam.

Mr. Koizumi took a balanced approach. He did things that received mass support. Most importantly, Mr. Koizumi, under the name of reform, destroyed the old and deftly led people’s illusion of reform that came from a sense of stagnation among them.

Q: You said the Japanese media practice self-censorship today, though they used to resist political intervention. What made them change that?

A: Until the late 1960s or the early 1970s, when they came under pressure from authority, they resisted such political intervention. Around the 1980s, however, the media began to lose consciousness of playing a watchdog role of government, so they gradually had less confrontation with it. The media became [too big and too powerful], and they have very little spirit that they investigate state power thoroughly in a body.

In a way that news organizations take state’s or authority figures’ intent in advance, they practice self-censorship. [Television station] NHK’s problem is the epitome of that practice. (Political pressure is thought to have made the public television network drastically change the content of a documentary program featuring the use of sex slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.)

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