News and Insights

Heavily Biased Japanese Reporting

Shiodome Media Tower

Heavily biased article by Kyodo News in Japan Times and Japan Today

The first anniversary of the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe 8th July 2022 received extensive media coverage. Much of it focused on Abe’s accomplishments as the longest serving premier, 2006-2007 and 2012-2020.

Heavily biased article by Kyodo Kyodo, Japan’s leading news agency, had however quite a different focus. It becomes apparent already in the headline: “One year on, Abe assassination leaves controversial issues unresolved”.

And the main “controversial issue” the news agency zooms in on, is Abe’s and lawmakers’ “ties” to the Unification Church. And as Kyodo’s bias dictates, the links are “dubious”.

The Japan Times was one of the papers that published the heavily biased Kyodo report. In an article 16th April this year, written by columnist Gearoid Reidy, the very same newspaper questioned the existence of those “ties”, writing,

“For months, Japan’s front pages and TV shows were dominated by links between the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the Unification Church.”

There was virtually no mention of the connections to other religious movements, even though the LDP’s government coalition partner Komeito have open links to the new Buddhist group Soka Gakkai and was founded by its members.

The Japan Times then pointed out that media reports on the connection between the Unification Church and the Liberal Democratic Party

“frequently used the language of ‘ties’ between the LDP and the church, which often meant little more than holding meetings or shaking hands.

A relentless barrage of stories focused on how senior politicians, including Abe, met with the church representatives, but failed to provide the context that politicians everywhere routinely associate with interest groups, particularly those with money.”

Dr. Massimo Introvigne. Screenshot

The bias of the Kyodo piece is made obvious also by the word “cult” being used about the Unification Church. Well-known Italian sociologist of religion Massimo Introvigne, by many considered the world’s leading expert on new religious movements, has this to say,

“A large majority of scholars of religions agree that there are no cults. Cultis just a label used to discriminate against groups that powerful lobbies, for whatever reasons, do not like.” (Quoted from the article The Abe Assassination. The Word ‘Cult’ Is A Tool for Discrimination, published by Bitter Winter, a magazine on religious liberty and human rights, 2nd Sept. 2022.)

The source of the heavily biased reporting becomes rather obvious when Kyodo mentions “lawyers”, and one of them seemingly being opposed to “believers ‘willingly’ offering ‘massive donations’ to them [the Unification Church].”

The lawyers Kyodo is basing much of its content on, are of course National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales, a network formed specifically by leftwing activist lawyers to destroy the Unification Church.

Masumi Fukuda
Masumi Fukuda. Photo: FOREF

Japanese award-winning investigative reporter Masumi Fukuda clearly reveals the origin of the activist lawyers’ network,

“Almost all of the lawyers in the Network were affiliated with the former Socialist Party and the Communist Party, who strongly opposed the enactment of the Anti-Espionage Law, were connected with extremist groups and North Korea, and were ideologically leftists and self-styled atheists. In contrast, the former Unification Church is an anti-communist and conservative organization that opposes atheism. It is clear that this was an ideological battle between the two camps.

Attorney Hiroshi Yamaguchi also clearly stated, ‘We want to make a big public announcement [about ‘spiritual sales’] because it will be good for containing right-wing activities, especially for preventing the passing of the Anti-Espionage Law.’” (The Truth About the National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales, article by Masumi Fukuda in the monthly magazine Hanada, republished in English in Bitter Winter 30th March 2023)

Kyodo echoes many false allegations from the network of activist leftwing lawyers. Standard network expressions repeated by Kyodo in its article, are “victims of controversial religious groups”, “maliciously soliciting donations”, “people pressured into purchasing”, “depriving the organization of its status as a religious corporation”, and “the Unification Church has violated laws and damaged public welfare”.

Kyodo simply presents those activist lawyers out to destroy the Unification Church, as “lawyers”. Not a word is said about their origin, their extreme political views, their goal to have the Unification Church, now called the Family Federation, dissolved. Hiding such key facts puts Kyodo News in a really bad light. This is definitely not objective reporting, and looks suspiciously like heavily biased campaigning journalism to paint the Unification Church black.

Fukuda also writes,

“The Network would not hesitate to use all means to destroy the former Unification Church. They are willing to tell all sort of stories, including lies, to achieve what they believe is a righteous purpose. They often throw the words ‘anti-social’ and ‘cult’ at the former Unification Church, but considering their involvement in the abduction and confinement of believers, one may wonder whether they are not more deserving of these labels themselves.” (‘Sayuri Ogawa’: When ‘Apostates’ Slander the Unification Church. 5. Why the Story Is Not Believable, Bitter Winter 6th March 2023)

The heavily biased Kyodo article claims that the Unification Church puts pressure on members to make large donations. This is one of the standard allegations from the network of activist lawyers. Above-mentioned Dr. Massimo Introvigne criticizes such a claim, saying,

“In its general principles, the Unification Church’s theology of donations is surprisingly similar to its Catholic and Protestant counterparts. […]

Ultimately, the problem is theological and philosophical. For a believer, donations may be deep spiritual experiences. For an atheist, or somebody who believes that groups such as the Unification Church are not “real” religions, no caution would be good enough, and no donation would ever be recognized as the fruit of a free and reasonable choice.” (The Abe Assassination. Donations to the Unification Church: Separating Facts from Fiction, Bitter Winter 3rd Sept. 2022)

“Heavily Biased Japanese Reporting” – text: Knut Holdhus

Featured image above: Shidome Media Tower, located in Shiodome, Minato, Tokyo, Japan. Floors 1–24 are the headquarters of Kyodo News, Japan’s largest news agency. Photo: License: CC ASA 3.0 Unp.


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