2001: An Open Letter and Inquiry
Concerning "The Question of Wartime Sexual Violence"
(aired on January 30), Part 2 of the ETV 2001 Series, "How Is War To Be Judged?"
To: EBISAWA Katsuji, President, NHK
From: Violence Against Women in War Network, Japan (VAWW-NET Japan)
MATSUI Yayori, Chairperson
SHOJI Rutsuko, Secretary-General
February 6, 2001
We approve of the ETV 2001 Series "How Is War To Be Judged," which was aired from January 29 to February 1, as an attempt to place the growing view that violence in war should be tried as a crime against humanity within an international context.
However, when we saw Part 2 of the series, "The Question of Wartime Sexual Violence," we realized that it was not the program that had been originally planned. It presented the Women's International War Crimes Tribunal (hereafter, Tribunal) in such a distorted and biased way that viewers could only have come away full of prejudice and misunderstanding. Having lent our full cooperation to the making of this program, we at "Violence Against Women in War" Japan Network (VAWW-NET Japan), find it entirely unacceptable. You will find our reasons are listed below, followed by a series of inquiries based on these reasons to which we demand responsible answers from NHK.
Cooperation in Making the Program
As one of its sponsoring organizations, VAWW-NET Japan accepted NHK's proposal to produce a program introducing the Women's International War Crimes Tribunal, which was held in Tokyo from December 8 to 12, 2000. We freely provided NHK with opportunities to cover and film the Tribunal from the planning stages. We did this with the understanding that the Tribunal would be presented in the context of the growing worldwide trend toward judging wartime sexual violence as a crime against humanity, and that the intention of the project was to create an unbiased record of the Tribunal on film.
In November, 2000, as the Tribunal was drawing near, we cooperated in the filming of the international activities of VAWW-NET members and volunteers, including preparatory sessions of the steering committee, as well as providing NHK with voluminous documentation, including indictments. In addition, the Chairperson of VAWW-NET Japan spent over an hour explaining the purpose and organization of the Tribunal in an interview with NHK.
Accordingly, we believed that this detailed coverage would result in a program that would fully inform its viewers about the people's Tribunal that was widely reported in the international media as having handed down "a historical decision, finding Hirohito guilty," and which generated enthusiastic praise among both victims who gave testimony and participants from all over the world.
In January, we learned that right-wing activists had heard about the ETV 2001 Series, and were expressing their opposition to the second program in the series. However, in the belief that NHK would stand firm in the face of right-wing harassment and outside pressure , and air the program as originally planned, we continued, through our members, to recommend that all interested parties see it.
Problems with the Program
But as actually broadcast, the second program in the series was entirely different from what the sponsors of the Tribunal had been expecting. Realizing that its contents would leave viewers with grave misunderstandings about the Tribunal, we were shocked and angry. Our reasons are as follows:
1) While purporting to be about the Women's International War Crimes Tribunal, the program failed to give viewers basic facts such as dates, times, venues, and number of participants. In addition, there was no mention of the most important sponsoring organizations (such as VAWW-NET Japan), or Chairpersons of these organizations (such as Joint Chairperson MATSUI Yayori, and Joint Chairpersons of the International Executive Committee YUN Chung Ok and Indai SAJOR), although in the third program, the name of the sponsoring organization for the Public Hearing was given, along with a comment by Vahida NAINAR one of the sponsors,
2) There was no explanation of the core issue of the Tribunal, namely, who the defendants were and what verdict was handed down (i.e., that the Showa Emperor was found guilty of war crimes, and that the Japanese government has state responsibility for such crimes),
3) Although over 20 witnesses testified at the Tribunal, only brief clips of testimony by two witnesses were aired, and very little was shown of the actual proceedings of the Tribunal (even though in the third program of the series, the site of the Public Hearing was shown throughout, and extensive coverage was given to a number of the women who gave testimony),
4) Twice during the program considerable time was given to HATA Ikuhiko, who attempted, through misinformed and biased statements, to deny the existence of the "comfort women" system, while the Tribunal's sponsors were given no opportunity to correct or refute him (leaving the impression that the program's producers endorse Hata's views) on the following points:
a) Although Hata claimed that there was no attorney for the defense, a lawyer appeared at the Tribunal as an amicus curiae (a friend of the court) and gave a detailed explanation of the defendant country's position,
b) Hata criticized the Tribunal for having two American women serve as Chief Justice and Chief Prosecutor, but both of these women were African-Americans who also participated in the War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, which was the first tribunal to judge wartime sexual violence as a crime against humanity. Hata furthermore willfully ignored the fact that judges and prosecutors from other areas of the world also served at the Tribunal,
c) Hata asserted that since the defendants had already been tried at the Tokyo Tribunal, to try them again would amount to double jeopardy, but the issue of sexual violence, and in particular, sexual slavery, was not dealt with at the Tokyo Tribunal,
d) Contrary to Hata's claim that the statute of limitations had run out, in the first program of the series it was emphasized that international consensus holds that there is no statute of limitations with regards to war crimes and crimes against humanity,
e) Hata claimed that there were no witnesses to give corroborating evidence for the victims' testimonies, and that the testimonies themselves lacked credibility, but he himself attended only the last day of the Tribunal when the decision was handed down. Having heard neither the actual content of the indictments or testimonies presented at the Tribunal, Hata was in no position to make such a comment, and it was highly irresponsible for him to do so. Corroborating evidence left by the Allied forces was presented to back up the testimony of one victim from North Korea, while the testimony of other victims was corroborated by a wealth of documentary evidence, as well as eye-witness reports from local people and fellow victims,
f) Hata pointed out that prostitution was legal at the time, and asserted that "comfort women" were sold by their parents to countrymen acting as dealers in legal transactions, yet he failed to mention the "comfort stations" that led directly to many incidences of enforced removal and mass rape outside of the Korean Peninsula. In a 1993 interview, the Chief Cabinet Secretary admitted to the "deceptive and violent" nature of the recruitment of "comfort women." Through testimonials and documentary evidence both from the Japanese military and the Allied forces, the Tribunal made clear the extent of the damage suffered by women throughout the Asia-Pacific region, and well as the chain of command that made it possible, and the identities of those responsible. This was the result of the cooperative efforts of support groups for the victims in each country, as well as historians and legal experts, in fact-finding activities that took place on an international scale, over a period of more than two years. Nevertheless, the program merely reiterated the worn-out arguments of Hata and his right-wing cohorts: namely, that trading in "comfort women" was a legal business transaction, and that "comfort women" were prostitutes. Neither the factual information uncovered by the Tribunal, nor the legal theory behind it were communicated to your viewers.
5) The moderator, who should have assumed a neutral position, started the program off by listing the Tribunal's faults, which were left unexplained at the end of the program.
The fundamental characteristic of the Tribunal is that it is a people's tribunal, not bound to the same due process that would be followed in a trial based on national sovereignty. This is clearly stated both in the Charter of the Tribunal and in the Summary of the Findings, but the moderator's failure to clarify this point left the impression that the Tribunal was arbitrary and unfair.
6) The comments of the two guest commentators were cut in an unnatural way, and the positions they have continually taken with regards to the Tribunal were not communicated to the viewers. This gave the impression that the program's producers edited their comments without their approval, choosing only those statements that would fit in with the rest of the program,
7) Although the theme of the series was "Judgment," in other words, "Punishment" (i.e., criminal proceedings), these words did not appear anywhere in the program. Instead, the emphasis was shifted to the problem of compensation for former "comfort women," with extensive coverage being given to the court cases of former "comfort women" seeking such compensation. This is a separate problem, outside the scope of the series theme,
8) The fact that the segment on the Asian Women's Fund included conspicuous shots of MIKI Mutsuko, widow of the late Prime Minister, even though she has since resigned from the steering committee of the Asian Women's Fund, also gave the impression of some hidden agenda,
9) The fact that the program ended five minutes early, and contained much unnecessary material, such as the lengthy scenes from the previous night's program that were shown before the second program's title appeared on the screen, and the irrelevant charts that were repeatedly displayed, can only lead us to conclude that scenes from the Tribunal were cut at the last minute, and that this unnatural wastage of time was a measure taken to fill in the minutes that were left over,
10) Although the excitement generated during the Tribunal has led many participants, both from within Japan and abroad, to express their enthusiasm and gratitude to its sponsors, the program utterly failed to capture the atmosphere of those four eventful days,
11) The program aired statements that criticized, condemned, and slandered the Tribunal, while failing to give equal time to its sponsors. This sort of slanted, ideologically prejudiced journalism is unforgivable, particularly when it comes from a public broadcasting corporation with a responsibility to maintain neutrality,
12) The program defamed the honor of the Tribunal, which came into being through the international cooperation of women from the perpetrating and victimized countries, and many other countries as well. In particular, it was an insult to the victims, and a serious violation of their human rights,
13) In comparison with programs one, three, and four in the series, which dealt with countries other than Japan, the second program avoided dealing with the issues of the wartime and postwar responsibility of the Japanese government and other defendants, leading us to conclude that the program itself is a party to Japan's postwar responsibility,
For the above reasons, VAWW-NET Japan has sent this open letter to the President of NHK.
An Open Letter and Inquiry to NHK
Since NHK, as a public broadcasting corporation, has a responsibility provide its viewers and those who cooperated in filming and coverage with an explanation as to why it aired such a program, we put to you the following questions:
1) Through what chain of events did NHK change the program produced by those who participated directly in its filming and coverage into the program that was actually aired?
2) Why did you not explain to VAWW-NET Japan, the object of the above-mentioned filming and coverage, with which it fully cooperated, that the program was to be changed?
3) Is it true that producers from outside of NHK were removed from the production staff at a certain point, and that NHK completed the production of the program without informing them of its contents?
4) Why was there no explanation of the Tribunal's scale, organization, or fundamental intent?
5) Why was there no mention of the Tribunal's most important verdict, which found the Emperor guilty? Was it decided during the production of this particular program that the Emperor's war responsibility must not be dealt with on the air? Or is this a rule that existed previously within NHK? Or was it decided that there was no legal foundation for having found the Emperor guilty?
6) Why did you decide at the last minute to air the comments of HATA Ikuhiko, who attended only the last day of the Tribunal, and who has been harshly criticized by scholars specializing in "comfort women" issues? Why were concerned parties not given an opportunity to refute and correct his inaccurate and misleading comments?
7) Is it true that the guest commentators were unaware of the character of the program they were to appear on until they actually saw it?
8) We have heard that right-wing activists entered the NHK Building and attempted to interfere with this program. Which right-wing organization was responsible for this harassment, and what specific demands did they make to NHK? How did NHK deal with these demands? One right-wing organization apparently reported on its homepage that "NHK [had] hurriedly begun to prepare additional data." What stance does NHK take with regards to right-wing intervention?
9) Was there pressure from politicians belonging to the LDP and other powerful political parties? If so, what kind of pressure? And how did NHK deal with this pressure? Are you unable to ignore such political pressure due to fears that your budget will be cut?
10) If there was no outside interference in the production of the program, then why did NHK, on its own judgment, decide to air such an unjust program?
11) The problem raised by the moderator at the beginning of the program, since no opportunity was provided for an adequate response, amounted to "ideologically prejudiced reporting." Why did you purposefully have the moderator raise this issue?
We await your sincere response to the above 11 questions.
Not only the over 600 members of VAWW-NET Japan, but also a total of 5000 others, including participants (2,600 from abroad) and auditors of the Tribunal, in particular the 64 victims from 8 countries, as well as its countless supporters both in Japan and overseas, the media who reported on it --- especially the foreign media, who gave the most extensive coverage --- and those who watched that coverage with interest, will be eager to hear your comments, for this is a problem that involves both the human rights of victimized women and freedom of the press.
Compared to the foreign press, the Japanese media virtually ignored the Tribunal. Because we were hoping that, through this ETV special program, news of the Tribunal would at last have a chance to reach a wide audience in Japan, our disappointment was all the greater. We can't help being reminded of the situation during World War ‡U, when although incidents such as the Rape of Nanking were reported in detail in the foreign media, no news of them whatsoever reached Japan. As Nationalist forces gain strength once again, we feel the coming of a crisis situation in which freedom of the press will be threatened, and the people will be robbed of their right to know the truth. We are therefore determined that this change in programming not be buried in the dark recesses of history.
We demand that you disclose the truth concerning this matter, not only to the Japanese people but to all the others from 30 different countries who supported the Tribunal and made it a reality.
Please deliver your oral or written response in person, either to the Chairperson or to members of the Steering Committee of VAWW-NET Japan, on or by February 14, 2001.
Chairperson, MATSUI Yayori
Secretary-General, SHOJI Rutsuko
2-10-10 Shiomi, Koto-ku, Tokyo 135-8585
Telephone and fax: 03-5337-4088