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Abusive Communists Soliciting for Subscriptions

Abusive communists soliciting for subscriptions

Red councilor’s outrageous twist of the story in effort to block establishment of committee to investigate abusive communists in Japanese municipal office buildings

Sekai Nippo on LDP pressuring council
Logo of the Sekai Nippo
Shimbun Akahata logo
Logo of Shimbun Akahata

The Tokyo newspaper Sekai Nippo has in a series of articles exposed how subscriptions to the Japanese Communist Party’s organ paper Shimbun Akahata are being solicited through what in Japan is called “power harassment” within municipal office buildings nationwide. “Power harassment” refers to the most common form of harassment in Japan – bullying or abuse in the workplace.

Based on investigative reporting , the Sekai Nippo has unearthed several instances of such abuse.

In its latest report, on 31st May 2024, the paper’s “Investigation Team for the Shimbun Akahata Issue” describes a case in the city of Utsunomiya (宇都宮), the capital of Tochigi (栃木) prefecture. There, a petition was made to the city council protesting the abusive solicitation and asking for it to be investigated. But not everyone on the city council was happy with the proposed investigation. Councilor Kumiko Fukuda (福田久美子), a member of the Communist Party, made strong opposition against the establishment of a committee to investigate the alleged power harassment.

Essentially, her tactic boiled down to portraying the persons behind the petition for an investigative committee as belonging to an “anti-social group”.

At city council meetings where such a committee was being discussed, she ignored council rules meant to protect petitioners from being harassed, e.g. by having their religion or personal details disclosed. Councilor Fukuda alleged that the persons making the petition were members of the Family Federation, an organisation she claimed to be “anti-social”. She further maintained that the materials attached to the petition were taken from the Sekai Nippo website, a newspaper owned by News World Communications, which was established by the Unification Church in 1976.

Japan with Tochigi prefecture
Japan with Tochigi prefecture highlighted. Image: Shigenobu Aoki / Wikimedia Commons. Public domain image

The Sekai Nippo reported 31st May that the communist city council member,

referred to incorrect details about the newspaper’s founding, and spent a significant amount of time on issues unrelated to the petition’s purpose, such as ‘potentially supporting the intentions of the anti-social group formerly known as the Unification Church’ […].

During the committee meeting, the Communist Party member argued, ‘the term ‘anti-social organization’ is used even in the National Diet, so it is a well-known fact.’

However, several other committee members countered, stating, ‘There are also voices saying not to use that term, so we need to be careful’ and ‘We should be cautious in our statements.’ Opinions such as ‘Harassment is determined by how the affected party feels. While you may think your remarks were appropriate, the petitioner feels victimized. We want you to reflect on this,’ were expressed by all ten committee members except for the one Communist Party member. As a result, with ten votes in favor and one against, Councilor Fukuda was sanctioned with an ‘apology’.”

On 29th May, the Sekai Nippo clarified that possible sanctions under consideration included a reprimand, an apology, suspension from attending for a certain period, or expulsion from the council. An “apology” means that an apology will be demanded of the city council member.

According to Sekai Nippo 29th May, communist councilor Kumiko Fukuda tried her best to turn the key issue on its head, claiming,

“The adoption of the petition, under the guise of preventing harassment, aims to suppress freedom of thought and belief, and could end up supporting the intentions of an anti-social organization.”

AS building Tokyo
The AS building where the Akahata Shimbun’s editorial department is located in Tokyo. Photo: nakazawa-i / Wikimedia Commons. License: CC ASA 3.0 Unp

Earlier this year, on 13th February, the Sekai Nippo reported on a similar case in an article headlined “70% subscribe to the organizational paper due to ‘pressure’.”

The paper writes,

“In relation to the issue of illegal solicitation of organizational newspapers, including the Japanese Communist Party’s newspaper Shimbun Akahata, within government offices on a nationwide scale, our paper has obtained the results of a survey conducted by Samukawa (寒川) town in Kanagawa (神奈川) prefecture targeting all management staff. According to the survey, 70% of management staff had been solicited to subscribe to party newspapers, and of those, more than half felt pressured to subscribe.

In September 2023, the Samukawa Town council adopted a petition requesting the self-restraint of party newspaper solicitation within government offices. Consequently, a survey was conducted among municipal employees from January 9 to 16. Out of 55 management staff, 49 responded.

Among the respondents, 34 (64.9%) reported having been solicited by council members to subscribe to party newspapers within the government office. Of these, 18 (52.9%) felt some form of pressure to subscribe. In reality, 25 (73.5%) succumbed to the pressure and subscribed to party newspapers.

In other municipalities across the country, employees have voiced that it is ‘difficult to refuse’ solicitations for subscriptions to newspapers like Shimbun Akahata within government offices due to customary practices. In Samukawa Town as well, it has come to light that many employees have continued to subscribe to certain party newspapers due to psychological pressure or customary practices.”

Featured image above: Soliciting for subscriptions in Japanese office building. Illustration generated by Microsoft Designer Image Creator June 2024.

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