Ja­pan of­fi­cial de­nies sex ha­rass­ment claim

Mag­a­zine re­ported Fukuda ha­rassed fe­male jour­nal­ists, and re­leased au­dio of top bu­reau­crat

Gulf News - - Asia/ Philippines -

The top bu­reau­crat at Ja­pan’s fi­nance min­istry yes­ter­day de­nied al­le­ga­tions he sex­u­ally ha­rassed fe­male jour­nal­ists and said he would sue the mag­a­zine that first re­ported the claims.

The min­istry, mean­while, called on fe­male jour­nal­ists who ac­cuse Ju­nichi Fukuda of ha­rass­ment to come for­ward and co­op­er­ate with its in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the claims.

The Shukan Shin­cho mag­a­zine last week re­ported that Fukuda had sex­u­ally ha­rassed sev­eral fe­male jour­nal­ists, and on Fri­day re­leased au­dio of what it said was the top bu­reau­crat at a bar with a re­porter.

“I’ll tie up your hands. Can I touch your breasts?” a male voice on the record­ing says.

“Shall we have an affair once the bud­get is ap­proved?”

The re­porter, who has not been named, can­not be heard on the record­ing and the iden­tity of the male voice could not be in­de­pen­dently ver­i­fied.

The mag­a­zine said sev­eral other women, who have not been iden­ti­fied, also ac­cused Fukuda of in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­iour, in­clud­ing ask­ing to kiss them and take them to a ho­tel.

‘Suf­fi­ciently re­morse­ful’

Yes­ter­day Fukuda is­sued a state­ment through the min­istry deny­ing the al­le­ga­tions against him.

“I did not have such a con­ver­sa­tion with a fe­male re­porter,” he said.

“From time to time I go out for meals with both male and fe­male re­porters af­ter work­ing hours, but from the be­gin­ning, I did not have an ex­change such as that re­ported by the mag­a­zine with any fe­male re­porter,” Fukuda said.

“I don’t recog­nise that I made sex­u­ally ha­rass­ing re­marks that would make fe­male re­porters feel of­fended.”

Fukuda said he had no in­ten­tion of re­sign­ing and added that he would sue the mag­a­zine for li­bel.

Shukan Shin­cho said it stood by its re­port­ing which was “all based on facts”.

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Taro Aso ini­tially ap­peared to dis­miss the al­le­ga­tions against Fukuda, say­ing he had given the top bu­reau­crat a ver­bal warn­ing and felt he was “suf­fi­ciently re­morse­ful”.

But he sub­se­quently said Fukuda would be fired if the al­le­ga­tions were proven, and the fi­nance min­istry said yes­ter­day it had asked in­de­pen­dent lawyers to in­ves­ti­gate.

“If there are fe­male re­porters who were in the sit­u­a­tions with ad­min­is­tra­tive vicem­i­nis­ter Fukuda de­scribed by the weekly mag­a­zine, [the min­istry] would like them to co­op­er­ate with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” the min­istry said.

Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe’s gov­ern­ment is al­ready fac­ing twin crony­ism scan­dals that have dragged down the pre­mier’s nor­mally high ap­proval rat­ings.

Ja­pan has one of the world’s worst records for fe­male po­lit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion and has deeply en­trenched gen­der at­ti­tudes. Just 2.8 per cent of rape vic­tims go to the po­lice, ac­cord­ing to a 2017 gov­ern­ment sur­vey, and the #MeToo move­ment that has raised aware­ness of sex­ual ha­rass­ment world­wide has had a rel­a­tively muted re­cep­tion in Ja­pan.

Abe has made en­cour­ag­ing fe­male par­tic­i­pa­tion in the work­force a cen­tral part of his “Abe­nomics” eco­nomic pro­gramme.

AFP

Ju­nichi Fukuda

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