Female journalists in Japan join forces to fight sexual harassment

Yoshiko Hayashi, right, a freelancer who formerly worked at the mass-circulation Asahi Shimbun, said it was now ‘the time to eradicate sexual harassment and any other human rights infringement.’ (AFP)
Updated 15 May 2018
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Female journalists in Japan join forces to fight sexual harassment

  • “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”
  • Shinzo Abe has made increasing female participation in the workforce a key plank of his economic policies, as Japan struggles with a labor shortage
TOKYO: Female journalists in Japan said Tuesday they were teaming up to fight sexual harassment in the media, believed to be widespread in a country where the #MeToo movement has been slow to take off.
A total of 86 women journalists have come together to form the Women in Media Network Japan (WiMN) to expose harassment and abuse, said Yoshiko Hayashi, a freelancer who formerly worked at the mass-circulation Asahi Shimbun.
“Unfortunately, discrimination against women and sexual harassment still exist among the people and entities we cover,” she said, reading a statement from the group on its establishment.
“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,” she added.
“We were the people whose voices were unheard.”
The issue hit the headlines recently after the finance ministry admitted its top bureaucrat harassed a female reporter in an incident believed to be the tip of iceberg.
The reporter, with Japan’s TV Asahi, blew the whistle and Hayashi said the group had been encouraged by her refusal to suffer in silence.
“We are resolved that now is the time to eradicate sexual harassment and any other human rights infringement,” Hayashi said.
The ministry came under fire for its handling of the allegations against Junichi Fukuda, who stepped down over the reporter’s claim but continues to deny wrongdoing.
His retirement package was eventually reduced as a punishment, but when reports of Fukuda’s alleged misconduct first emerged in a weekly magazine, Finance Minister Taro Aso appeared to dismiss them, saying he had discussed the issue with his top bureaucrat and had no plans to investigate.
An uproar over the claims ensued, and the ministry was forced to backtrack, though it earned additional criticism for calling on affected women to come forward to its lawyers.
TV Asahi, one of the nation’s major networks, publicly acknowledged one of its reporters was the victim and that her boss had failed to act when she initially complained about the harassment.
Aso has voiced his concern over “Fukuda’s human rights” in the midst of accusations and said there is no such criminal charge as sexual harassment.
He has also said that the bureaucrat fell victim to a “honey trap” by the female reporter though he later retracted the remark.
The scandal and the ministry’s perceived mishandling of the allegations have provoked a public outcry leading some to suggest the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment was finally impacting Japan.
It has also provided an additional headache for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose government is already under fire over two cronyism scandals, one of which involves the scrubbing of documents by the finance ministry.
Abe has made increasing female participation in the workforce a key plank of his economic policies, as Japan struggles with a labor shortage.


Facebook CEO says delay in flagging fake Pelosi video was ‘execution mistake’

Updated 27 June 2019
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Facebook CEO says delay in flagging fake Pelosi video was ‘execution mistake’

  • The video, a type of realistic alteration known as a “deepfake,” was slowed to make Pelosi’s speech seem slurred and edited to make it appear that she repeatedly stumbled over her words

Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday said his social media company took too long to flag as false an altered video of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that appeared to show the Democratic Representative slurring and tripping through a speech.
Zuckerberg, speaking at a conference in Aspen, Colorado, said the slow response was “an execution mistake on our side.”
The video, a type of realistic alteration known as a “deepfake,” was slowed to make Pelosi’s speech seem slurred and edited to make it appear that she repeatedly stumbled over her words. After the video surfaced last month, it was widely shared on Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet Inc’s YouTube.
YouTube took down the video, citing policy violations, but Facebook did not remove the clip, only limiting its distribution and telling users trying to share it that it might be misleading.
“It took a while for our system to flag the video and for our fact checkers to rate it as false... and during that time it got more distribution than our policies should have allowed,” Zuckerberg said.
Pelosi criticized Facebook’s refusal to remove the video and said the incident had convinced her the company knowingly enabled Russian election interference.
Misinformation through altered videos is a rising concern in the run-up to the 2020 US presidential election, especially as artificial intelligence (AI) is now being used to produce clips that look genuine and realistically appear to show people saying words they have not spoken. The term “deepfake” is a combination of “deep learning” and “fake.”
After the Pelosi video, Zuckerberg himself was portrayed in a spoof deepfake video on Instagram in which he appears to say “whoever controls the data, controls the future.” Facebook, which owns Instagram, did not to take down the video.
Zuckerberg said Facebook is considering developing a specific policy on deepfakes.
“This is a little bit of sausage making here because we are going through the policy process of thinking through what the deepfake policy should be,” he said. “This is certainly an important area as the AI technology gets better.”