Weekly Friday printed an article in their July 21 issue taking a look at the controversy surrounding Soka Gakkai leader Daisaku Ikeda’s recent series of op-eds in the Japan Times, the “only independent English-language newspaper in Japan.” Let’s have a look:
Indicting Reportage: Internal conflict arises at Japan Times over “Daisaku Ikeda” columns
Field reporters lodge fierce protests, claiming “promotional articles for giant religious group Soka Gakkai”
In our last article, we reported the behind-the-scenes power struggle that is ripping Soka Gakkai apart, but a “Soka scandal” has also embroiled the Japan Times, the English-language newspaper boasting the longest history in Japan (founded 1897).
It all started when the paper started running a serial column by Daisaku Ikeda (78), honorary chairman of Soka Gakkai. This column runs on the 2nd Thursday of each month, with 12 columns planned in total. But Japan Times emloyees have fiercely protested and it has reached a state where they have requested that the upper management cancel the series. A Japan Times employees explains:
“Soka Gakkai has been dubbed a cult in France, and it is united with a specific political group (New Komeito). It is absurd for us to let the leader of a religious group with these kinds of issues to write promotional articles and on top of that give him our serial space. Even from the perspective of journalistic impartiality, it isn’t to be permitted.”
At the end of May, employees opposed to the column wrote a petition, signed “Volunteer Association to Oppose Daisaku Ikeda’s Column” to company president Yukiko Ogasawara demanding cancellation of the series. The Association was an anonymous group, but it reverberated deeply and reportedly gained the support of more than half of the approximately 260 JT employees. In fact, the upper management was left with no choice but to make a response in intracompany e-mail due to the strength of those in opposition, but Ogasawara’s explanation only went as far as this:
“Regarding Daisaku Ikeda’s column, I have ordered the senior staff of our editorial and sales departments to print other opinion leaders’ columns in order to maintain journalistic impartiality.”
She ended up not even bringing up the merits of the serial column in question. What’s more, since the problem would not be resolved by printing other authors, the Association considered it a meaningless response. The JT employee quoted above had this to say:
“This serial column was apparently proposed to Soka Gakkai from within my company, and an executive who is a Soka sympathizer brokered it.” This executive is in charge of both the editorial and advertising departments, and his opinions carry a lot of weight. Therefore, there are even people who wonder if ‘we won’t soon be bought out by Soka Gakkai.'”
The employees’ concerns are not unfounded. JT has a history revealing its tight relationship with Soka Gakkai. In the past, JT has been contracted to print Soka Gakkai’s English-language newspaper and in 1994 the company printed a large article-style advertisement from Soka Gakkai International. In addition, the paper has printed one-shot op-eds from Ikeda four times in the past few years.
After translating and examining the columns in question, Ikeda’s self-serving stances stand out. For example, the first column, which ran on May 11, 2006, contains the following passage:
“As a member of the generation that endured on a global scale the absolute evil of war, I feel a personal sense of responsibility to do all I can, working with my contemporaries and with the members of the rising generations to eliminate the scourge of violence and war.”*
“Toda had resisted the militarist regime that stripped the Japanese people of their rights and freedoms, plunging the country into a war of invasion. As a result, he had endured persecutions and a two-year imprisonment. The words of a person who had suffered imprisonment for his convictions carried a special weight. I felt intuitively that I could trust him.”
However, journalist Masao Otsukotsu had this to say:
“In his address commemorating the Jan 26, 2003 ‘SGI Day.’ Ikeda wrote on the situation in Iraq, where war was about to begin: ‘To totally deny military force may be all right as sentimental ethics of an individual person, but in the realm of politics that it not necessarily realistic as an option.’ In other words, he revealed a stance of permitting the use of force. Also, Josei Toda was not arrested because he opposed the war, but because he incurred the wrath of the Hideki Tojo administration when he denied the Ofuda (talisman) at Ise Shrine and criticized the use of State Shinto as a guiding principle. [Ikeda] probably made these things up to try and emphasize that Soka Gakkai is a ‘pacifist’ organization and that Ikeda himself is a ‘disciple of peace.'”
JT can’t avoid being called on letting Ikeda voice some conveniently-remembered remarks, can it?
This is how the company responded when we went there seeking comment:
“It is a fact that Ikeda’s column sparked debate, but as a journalistic institution that champions the freedom of speech, we see it as healthy that there are various opinions within the company. In the future, we will continue to request opinion leaders in diverse positions to write for us.”
It doesn’t look like the Japan Times intends to cancel the series. Where has its pride as a journalistic institution gone?
Comment: Take a look at some of these columns. They are all propaganda for his organization like the latest one for instance:
Now, more than ever, we need to develop the qualities of strength, wisdom and hope as we forge expanding networks of mutual support.
In the end, the key to living in a stress-filled society lies in feeling the suffering of others as our own — in unleashing the universal human capacity for empathy. There is no need to carry the burden of a heavy heart alone.
Ick. Something fishy is going on here.
(Article found on marxy‘s site)
*Quotes copy-pasted from original article.