December 2, 1996

"Buddhist group runs ad attacking Japanese journalism"

A December 2, 1996 Associated Press (Tokyo) article about ads Soka Gakkai International placed in The Asian Wall Street Journal from December 3-6, 1996 ("Why are We Concerned?--Why Should You be Concerned?"), criticizing media abuse by the Japanese press.

A Japanese Buddhist group has bought quarter-page ads in The Asian Wall Street Journal denouncing what it calls unfair media coverage by weekly tabloid magazines.

The publisher named in the ads denied the allegations.

The Soka Gakkai's five-day ad series, which started Monday, accuses the magazines of widespread irresponsible reporting, starting from the World War II era when news reports inaccurately gave a favorable picture of Japan's war efforts.

It also cited news reports identifying an innocent man as a suspect in a 1994 lethal gas attack, and a now defunct magazine that ran an article titled ''There Were No Nazi Gas Chambers.''

''Should you be concerned?'' Monday's ad asks. ''A healthy society in which individual rights are protected requires a balanced and responsible media.''

Bungei Shunju, the publisher, denounced the Soka Gakkai ads as one-sided.

''Soka Gakkai is a powerful religious organization in Japan with an important influence on society and should answer to media criticism,'' Bungei Shunju spokesman Hideki Amemiya said in a statement.

Soka Gakkai spokeswoman Rie Tsumura said Soka Gakkai has rarely been given a chance to tell its side of what she called inaccurate and sensationalistic reporting.

''All we're asking is for Japanese society to be more conscious about accurate and fair media coverage,'' Tsumura said. ''We decided to run it in English with Western papers, where there's a free and objective press.''

Asian Wall Street Journal Managing Director William Adamopoulos said the paper does not comment on its ads. A quarter-page ad in The Asian Wall Street Journal costs $5,700 a day, he said.

Soka Gakkai, which has several million members and is a key backer of the biggest opposition party, has often been the target of negative press.

One of the articles targeted in the ad campaign, published by the weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun in August, alleged that Soka Gakkai leader Daisaku Ikeda had affairs with women followers.

Soka Gakkai has repeatedly denied the report. Shukan Bunshun is put out by Bungei Shunju.

Shukan Bunshun editor Takahiro Hirao acknowledged that the magazine did not interview the women but said it carried out intensive reporting with other people.

''We are confident about the story's accuracy,'' he said.

[Note: As it appeared in the December 2, 1996 Associated Press (Tokyo)]