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.


WhatsApp dirty tricks alleged in Brazil presidential race

Updated 19 October 2018
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WhatsApp dirty tricks alleged in Brazil presidential race

  • Leftist candidate Fernando Haddad accused frontrunner Jair Bolsonaro of using WhatsApp to unleash fake news messages
  • here are 120 million WhatsApp user accounts in Brazil, whose population is 210 million
SAO PAULO, Brazil: Allegations of a dirty tricks campaign on WhatsApp dominated Brazil’s presidential election race on Thursday, turning attention to social media manipulation following abuses uncovered in the last US election and Britain’s Brexit referendum.
Trailing leftist candidate Fernando Haddad accused the far-right frontrunner, Jair Bolsonaro, of “illegal” electoral tactics after a report that companies were poised to unleash a flood of WhatsApp messages attacking him and his Workers Party.
Bolsonaro denied the allegation, tweeting that the Haddad’s Workers Party “isn’t being hurt by fake news, but by the TRUTH.”
The exchange happened 10 days before a run-off election that polls predict Bolsonaro — a bluff, Internet-savvy, pro-gun polemicist often compared to US President Donald Trump — will likely win comfortably.
Ordinary Brazilians told AFP they got much of their election information through WhatsApp. They said some in their families or entourage swallowed some misinformation, but denied they themselves were being influenced.
“We get a lot of news, even false news, but some true, about politics but I don’t think it changes very much in terms of making decisions,” said Ana Clara Valle, a 27-year-old engineer in Rio.
She said she was voting for Bolsonaro because of his Catholic, pro-family stance, not because of any “extreme right” sensibility.
Andre de Souza, a 35-year-old lawyer leaning toward voting for Bolsonaro, said he receives around 500 WhatsApp messages a day for and against both candidates.
The rumors and false information “don’t make a difference to me,” he said, but added: “My mother received a WhatsApp message saying Bolsonaro was doing away with (mandatory) end-of-year salary payments, and she believed it!“

Support by companies
Haddad made his accusation after Brazil’s widest circulation newspaper, Folha de Sao Paulo, reported it had discovered contracts worth up to $3.2 million each for companies to send out bulk WhatsApp messages attacking the Workers Party.
“We have identified a campaign of slander and defamation via WhatsApp and, given the mass of messages, we know that there was dirty money behind it, because it wasn’t registered with the Supreme Electoral Tribunal,” Haddad told a media conference in Sao Paulo.
Bolsonaro’s lawyer, Tiago Ayres, told the financial daily Valor there was no evidence of any connection between the companies mentioned by Folha de Sao Paulo and Bolsonaro’s campaign.
The row shone a light on an issue that has become a pressing one in democracies: the organized abuse of social media to sway public opinion in countries.
Facebook — which owns WhatsApp, as well as popular image-based network Instagram — is the most prominent company that has come under scrutiny, though Twitter has also come in for criticism.
The platforms have made an effort to clean up who uses their services after evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 US election that saw Trump triumph, and accusations Facebook allowed user data to be harvested to bolster the campaign the same year for Britain to leave the European Union.
Facebook has also shut down disinformation pages traced to campaigns believed to have ties to Iran’s state-owned media and to Russian military intelligence services.

No foreign interference
There is no evidence of foreign interference online in Brazil’s election.
The director of major polling firm Datafolha, Mauro Paulinho, said on Twitter that his company had detected “some shifts” in public opinion just before the first round of the election on October 7, which Bolsonaro won handily.
“Technical and factual observations” were made, he said, without drawing any conclusions.
There are 120 million WhatsApp user accounts in Brazil, whose population is 210 million. The app works as a popular social network for friends, families and work colleagues.
Both Haddad and Bolsonaro are the subject of memes, cartoons and slogans circulating online in Brazil.
Haddad, a former education minister and ex-mayor of Sao Paulo, has repeatedly tried to draw Bolsonaro into televised debates on policies.
The leftist candidate has an academic background he believes would give him an advantage if the exchanges moved away from the one-line quips and insults that characterize most social media communications.
But Bolsonaro, who skipped early debates because he was recovering from a knife stab wound after being attacked by a lone assailant while campaigning last month, has thus far shown little inclination to go head-to-head with Haddad.