May 02, 2014
EDITORIAL: On a mission to stop growing trend toward intolerance

May 3, Constitution Day, is a date that is etched into our memory. On this day 27 years ago, a man wielding a shotgun stormed The Asahi Shimbun’s Hanshin Bureau in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, and opened fire, killing 29-year-old reporter Tomohiro Kojiri and seriously injuring another reporter.

In a statement claiming responsibility for the attack, the assailant, who called himself a member of “Sekihotai,” said the “anti-Japanese Asahi must return to its former self 50 years ago.”

In an editorial published immediately after the attack, we pledged to “defend a democratic society where diverse values of members are respected and remain committed to freedom of speech.”

To our deep regret, the 15-year statute of limitations on the case expired in 2002 with no culprit apprehended. Still, our determination has remained unshakable.

With that said, our democratic society, where people should respect the values of others, even when they differ, appears to be under threat. The disturbing fact is that there is a growing trend toward refusing to accept people with different ideas and attacking them.

People who are intolerant toward others with differing views often like to use the phrase “anti-Japanese” when launching verbal attacks. The term, which was often used by those individuals attempting to demonize The Asahi Shimbun, is now part of the wider narrative.

Claiming Korean residents in Japan enjoy unfair “privileges,” some people repeatedly take to the streets to stage what can only be described as hate-speech protests. In Shikoku, known for its popular Buddhist pilgrimage route that covers 88 temples, signs saying, “Let’s protect our pilgrimage course from the hands of Koreans,” were discovered.

Books intended to incite hatred against South Korea and China are gaining popularity, and headlines seemingly designed to promote racial discord appear in certain media almost daily.

In a lawsuit filed in Kyoto against an anti-Korean organization that held hate-speech protests, the group has tried to defend its actions and the language it used claiming a constitutional right to freedom of expression. But, should speech designed to ostracize and hurt other members of society be respected? For all the arguments and efforts we have made championing free speech and expression, we cannot help but feel compelled to say no to that question.

Since the 1987 murder of our colleague, we have received strong support and encouragement from many of our readers. And with the support of those voices, we are always striving to protect freedom of the press.

In particular, we believe we have made every effort to fight against any attempt by the powers that be to restrict people’s freedom. We did just that, for instance, during Diet deliberations on the state secrets protection bill. These efforts have been based in part on a lot of painful soul-searching that has taken place as a result of our news organization’s regrettable cooperation with the government before and during World War II.

We cannot help but wonder if we could have done more to prevent this proliferation of hateful language plaguing our society today.

Needless to say, we are committed to stand up for the victims of unwarranted attacks. We are also determined to pay close and serious attention to the backgrounds of those hatemongers who use and promote abusive language and those who support them so that we can help heal the widening rift in our society.

We don’t just want to promote the slogan “freedom of expression and speech,” we want to help create a society where everybody can live with dignity and live a life free of anxiety.

On the anniversary of the day our colleague was slain, we remember afresh our principal mission as a news organization.

--The Asahi Shimbun, May 2

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