#metoo gains support in Japan

The Voices Unheard

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Lisa Dorn

The #metoo movement takes on Japan’s media as female journalists begin to come forward. The #metoo movement in Japan has garnered international attention after a high-ranking finance ministry official stepped down amid claims of sexual harassment by a female journalist working for TV Asahi. The scandal exposed issues regarding Japan’s media organizations and sexual harassment.

Junichi Fukuda was recorded asking the journalist, “Can I kiss you? Can I hug you? Can I touch your breasts?” Despite the recording, Fukuda denied the allegations and instead threatened to file a lawsuit for defamation against the publication. The journalist turned to a weekly magazine after her boss told her not to report the incident.

After facing criticism from Japan’s Newspaper Workers’ Union, the head of Asahi TV’s news division Hiroshi Shinozuka told BBC, “We are doing some deep soul-searching [regarding] our inability to respond appropriately despite receiving information that one of our employees had been sexually harassed.”

As reported by Channel News Asia, a total of 86 journalists have banded together in the wake of the incident to combat the issue by founding Women in Media Network Japan, an organization aiming to bring an end to sexual harassment for Japanese journalists.

In the article, former journalist for Asahi Shimbun and one of the founders of WiMN Yoshiko Hayashi said, “We are resolved that now is the time to eradicate sexual harassment and any other human rights infringement.”

Journalists have also seen government support in six opposition parties that choose to abstain from scheduling any new deliberations in protest of the sexual harassment allegations.

The most notable among the voices is minister for women’s empowerment Seiko Noda. According to The Asahi Shimbun, Noda said, “The reality is that victims of sexual harassment can’t talk about it even to their families.”

Others echoed this sentiment. “Many women in journalism felt it difficult to raise their voice out of embarrassment and fears that it would destroy the relationship with their contacts,” Hayashi said to Channel News Asia. “We were the people whose voices were unheard.”

Before #metoo

In 2017, former news intern Shiori Ito stood alone after making public allegations of rape against high-profile television journalist Noriyuki Yamaguchi. Yamaguchi, was never arrested, and the case was dropped before setting foot in court despite video and DNA evidence, as reported by CNN.

Ito became the first Japanese citizen to use the hashtag #metoo. Ito claimed police discouraged her report, saying, “They told me that I won’t have the life I want to have in Japan if I do. If I want to work as a journalist in Japan, I have to give up my dream.”

Ito left Japan after being targeted online by hate mail and threats. Since then, she has joined Monika Fukuhara in helping organize the new #wetoo movement in her fight against sexual harassment in Japan.

#wetoo

A Japanese proverb warns, “The nail that sticks out, gets hammered down.” The new #wetoo movement intends to provide support to women who experience sexual assault. Fukuhara notes #wetoo goes beyond the self-identification found in #metoo. “By using ‘We Too’ instead, we show greater solidarity,” Fukuhara said in The Japan Times. “We are letting victims know they’re not alone and that we listen and support, making it easier to speak up,” Fukuhara continued. “Since Japanese society has some sort of prejudice against victims, it’s difficult for women to raise their hands and say ‘Me too.’”

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