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Asahi writer punished for pressure on magazine

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Newspaper publisher Asahi Shimbun Co. said Thursday that it will punish a senior journalist for demanding that a magazine show him an article featuring an interview with former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe before its release.

Kenji Minemura, 47, a senior staff writer of the major daily Asahi Shimbun, will get a one-month suspension for putting pressure on the Shukan Diamond weekly magazine. The punishment will take effect Wednesday.

According to the newspaper publisher, Minemura telephoned on March 10 the deputy editor of the magazine who interviewed Abe on diplomacy and security the day before.

Minemura told the deputy editor that “Abe was concerned about the contents of the interview,” claiming that he is the former prime minister’s adviser.

The Asahi Shimbun journalist demanded that Shukan Diamond show him a proof of the article, saying that he would decide whether it should be published.

The magazine rejected the demand and filed a complaint with Asahi Shimbun, saying that the act “amounted to a violation of editorial rights.”

Minemura told an internal investigation that he heard that Abe was worried over the interview and that he gave personal advice to the deputy editor, an acquaintance of Minemura.

He also said that he told the magazine to send the proof of the article to Abe’s office.

Minemura had been preparing to leave Asahi Shimbun. He is slated to quit on April 20.

Katsuhiko Tagaya, the newspaper’s former general manager and managing editor of the Tokyo head office, who was Minemura’s superior at the time, also will be reprimanded.

The Shukan Diamond article was published in the March 26 issue, released on March 22.

“The act was extremely inappropriate as it could be taken as an act of working with a politician to put pressure on the media,” said Kiyoshi Miyata, the newspaper publisher’s current general manager and managing editor of the Tokyo head office. “We will provide thorough education on press ethics.”

Keisuke Yamaguchi, chief editor of Shukan Diamond, expressed disappointment about the violation of editorial rights, which he said lacked neutrality.

Meanwhile, Abe’s office has declined to comment, saying that it is a problem between the newspaper and Minemura.