Media Mix, June 14, 2020

Public Prosecutors Office

Here’s this week’s Media Mix about the Kurokawa mahjong scandal and how the press gets information through access to government officials. Most of the column was about the reporter’s side of the transaction, but, of course, officials have their own reasons for leaking information. As I said, bureaucrats are not allowed to share information about their work with the press, so when they do share it’s usually for a specific self-serving reason. Tsunehiko Maeda, a former prosecutor who went to jail for fabricating evidence, wrote recently on his blog that the quid pro quo nature of these transactions can be quite sophisticated. For instance, sometimes reporters who are covering organized crime or the financial world bring stories to prosecutors who then use that information to build cases before an arrest or indictment. In return, the prosecutor may throw the reporter a bone or two in the form of a heads up when they plan to carry out a raid. That’s why there’s always a camera crew on hand when prosecutors show up and start carting out evidence in those brown boxes. Strictly speaking, no advance warning is supposed to be given when raids are executed. Another example of this is Carlos Ghosn’s arrest, which only a handful of media outlets reported at the time it happened. Some commentators suspect that prosecutors may have owed favors to these outlets, but in any case it was essential that the “theatrical” aspect of the arrest was carried in the media for publicity’s sake. Even after the arrest, many aspects of Ghosn’s interrogations were leaked when they are supposed to be totally confidential. It all depends on what’s convenient for the prosecutors. Some people believe that the current scandal in Hiroshima involving two Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers, husband and wife Katsuyuki and Anri Kawai, who may have bought votes in their constituency, was sparked by prosecutors who wanted to punish the LDP for some slight—likely the favoritism toward head Tokyo prosecutor Kurokawa, which the sitting prosecutor general found offensive. That isn’t to say the Kawais didn’t do anything wrong, but if every instance of improper campaign activities in Japan were prosecuted as diligently, almost all politicians in Japan would be in jail. Prosecutors pick their fights carefully, and always with their own interests in mind.

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