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Aska case shows agencies pressuring Japan’s media on drug reporting

Shukan Bunshun June 5
Shukan Bunshun June 5
Two times this month, Tokyo Metropolitan Police have arrested singer Aska, of the pop group Chage and Aska, on drug-related charges.

Since the news broke of his first arrest, sports newspapers and broadcasting stations have covered the story to great extent, expressing astonishment over the revelations.

Weekly tabloid Shukan Bunshun was on top of the story back in August, when it claimed that the 56-year-old performer, whose real name is Shigeaki Miyazaki, was a regular user of illegal stimulants.

In this week’s issue (June 5), the magazine finds it interesting that within all the media coverage very few news outlets mention the names of other celebrities that have had drug issues in the past.

“If you look back, a lot of celebrities have been arrested on drug charges, with many of them for the use of stimulants,” says a media writer. “For big names like Aska, the news articles typically print a list of similar offenders. However, this time that has not happened.”

(As if on cue, the Mainichi Shimbun does not include any names of arrested celebrities in its article about the entertainment industry and its disinterest in anti-drug measures.)

In 2009, police arrested former idol Noriko Sakai and singer Manabu Oshio in two high-profile drug cases. Shukan Bunshun says that the refusal to mention these incidents is deliberate.

Sakai is not being mentioned directly in the evening papers,” says an employee at a TV station. “They are just saying stuff like ‘ex-idol singer’ in their reports, which gives a sense of awkwardness.”

An editor for an entertainment magazine says that talent agencies are applying pressure on media outlets.

“In the past, you’d get employees at talent agencies calling up (the papers) to complain about the published list of names since doing so brings back old issues that are considered finished,” says the editor, who adds that most of the defendants wind up getting suspended jail sentences that extend for a year.

Since the arrest of Sakai, he continues, there has been ‘tacit pressure’ placed on media outlets to not report names. However, there can be exceptions.

On May 22, director Takeshi Kitano joked that news channels would have seen a huge jump in ratings if Aska had gone on the run from law enforcement just like just like Sakai had done five years before — and he did so by specifically using her name. The next day, news outlets reported what Kitano said.

“Of course, that’s Kitano,” says an employee for a morning news program. “It is interesting how there is a clear distinction with how the Aska case is being treated.”

Sakai, who received a three-year suspended sentence, made a return to the public eye about 18 months after her arrest. Though she is largely inactive in the industry now, the employee says that associating her with drugs again would harm her potential.

“If her name is used, once again that event will surface,” says the employee. “Making a comeback in the acting world has become very difficult.” (K.N.)

Source: “Aska taiho hodo de ‘geinojin yakubutsu taihosha’ ichiranhyo ga denai wake,” Shukan Bunshun (June 5, page 51)