Why I sue NHK?
My decision to sue NHK is not an easy decision. Actually, it is one of the biggest decisions I have ever made in my life. Frankly speaking I love NHK and I enjoy working for NHK and with most of NHK staffs for almost ten years.
I have heard about NHK since my childhood, but I got to know NHK better in the summer of 1982, when I got scholarship from Japan Airlines. At that time together with other Sophia University's students, I had a chance to visit NHK studio in Shibuya, Tokyo. We were allowed to see the actual operations of NHK TV. And for me it was amazing because it shows how NHK tried to serve its audience, the Japanese public.
That's why when in 1988 I was asked to join NHK Jakarta Bureau as an assistant to the Jakarta Chief Correspondent, Mr. T. Okamoto, I was very glad and agreed to join NHK Jakarta. I could easily cooperate with NHK Mr. Okamoto, because he taught me not only how to become a good radio and TV journalist, but also how important and sacred is the fact for journalism. In the first place, he often said, a journalist should be trustworthy.
At the end of 1988, I was informed that NHK Tokyo had decided to withdraw its Japanese staff from Jakarta Bureau, but still want to keep its office in Jakarta. I was asked to be the only representative of NHK in Jakarta, maintaining NHK interests in Indonesia. I was surprised and proud to be given such a great trust and responsibility, only after working for NHK for several months. But by the guidance of Mr. Okamoto who was assigned to Sydney and then Bangkok Bureau, I could carry out my job pretty well. I worked not only for Kokusaibu but also became researcher and coordinator for many teams from other NHK departments who came to Indonesia for making TV documentaries.
One year later, NHK Tokyo decided to dispatch again a Japanese staff to head NHK Jakarta office. Mr. Yoshinori Sawa and three years later Mr. Haruo Saito, both of them were cameramen, became Jakarta Bureau Chiefs. I could work together with Sawa-san and Saito-san very well, especially because they could quickly adapt to Indonesian situation. I think this was because before coming to Jakarta they had already experiences to live abroad and they had been well prepared for their new assignments in Jakarta.
In 1996, NHK assigned Mr. Tsutomu Sakamoto, also a cameraman, to Jakarta, replacing Mr. Saito. He is certainly a good cameraman, but unfortunately not a good journalist. He does not have even the basic capabilities of becoming a good journalist as well as office manager. In the first weeks of his three years in Jakarta, I was often asked to brief him until midnight, about Indonesian social, cultural, and political conditions. But I failed to make him understand Indonesia, especially because he lacks intellectual capability necessary for any foreign news correspondent.
Because of his rude and arrogant behaviour, from the beginning he got problems in dealing with people, not only with his staffs in the office but also with other people in the location of news coverage. Only in the first year of his assignment in Jakarta, every body in NHK Jakarta did not feel happy. Our good secretary resigned, and the new secretary could work only for one day and left the office in tears because of Mr. Sakamoto's rude behaviour. Other staffs often complained to me about Mr. Sakamoto's treatment.
Several times Mr. Sakamoto had verbal conflicts - in some cases almost physical conflicts- with other journalists, especially Indonesian journalists, and Indonesian officials. The big incident happened in September 1997, when a TVRI news manager asked security men to take Mr. Sakamoto out of the manager's office, after Mr. Sakamoto tore off the manager's name card in the front of the manager's nose, only because the manager did not give him the original and un-broadcasted TVRI video tapes with forest fire scenes. Strangely at that time Mr. Sakamoto did not ask me but his new secretary to accompany him, although I have known the manager very well for years and the manager always assists NHK. And I think the incident happened at least because first Mr. Sakamoto did not know the common policy and practice in broadcasting industry in the world that un-broadcasted video tape can not be offered to other people, except if they buy its rights. Second, it is because of Mr. Sakamoto really wanted to have the original tape without TVRI logo so that he could claim that the video footage were taken by him not by TVRI. (very unethical practice). And third, it is because of Mr. Sakamoto's rude and arrogant personality.
But any way in more than a year working with him, I have been very instrumental in making several news scoops. Among others are the coverage of the personal visit of former Myanmar strong man, Mr. Ne Win to Soeharto family ( At that time Mr. Toshiyuki Sato, the present NHK International News Director, praised me and said that the picture of the old man was the first in 17 years); also I was the first journalist getting the dialogue between the Garuda pilot and Medan Air Traffic Control officer, just seconds before the crash in September 1997 which killed more than 250 passengers and crews. (In his statement to Tokyo court, Mr. Sato said that I got reward because of this scoop, but it was not true since I have never been given such reward. I think he is cheating in order to give impressions to the court that NHK had treated me well during my years with NHK. On the contrary, Mr. Sakamoto got angry with me because the information of the dialogue was not given to him as Jakarta Bureau Chief, but to Mr. Sato who was at that time Kuala Lumpur Bureau Chief. He said; "I am the one who paid you not Sato-san".)
With this background, I would like to tell you why I sue NHK. In his first weeks in Jakarta, Mr. Sakamoto always told me that he was very interested to make program outside of Jakarta, especially related to sea and diving issues. That's why he asked me to look for stories related to sea and diving. " I am the best underwater cameraman in Japan. I gave diving training for NHK cameramen,” he often said. That is why in May I suggested him to cover the reef check activity of WWF Indonesia in Karimunjawa Island, in Java Sea.
And then when in July 21, 1997, I read news article carried by Antara News Agency that Indonesian Navy in Kendari, South East Sulawesi, trained the former fish-bombers how to dive, immediately I informed him. Mr. Sakamoto then asked me to do more research and coordination, so that we could cover the story. From WWF office I got many information related to the fishing activities in Sulawesi, including the fishermen island called Barang Lompo where a street was named Lorong Janda, because the husbands were killed because of bombing activities. I was interested to know more about Lorong Janda, and WWF asked me to contact Mr. Muchsin who was at that time working for a NGO, the Simpul Foundation, in Makassar I asked Mr. Muchsin to do research before our visit to Barang Lompo Island and to become our coordinator during our trip to Barang Lompo. NHK Jakarta offered him Rp 100,000 per day, excluding additional costs such as transportation etc. Mr. Muchsin agreed to accept NHK offer.
At that same time, I called the Commander of Kendari Navy Base, Col Gito Oetomo to get more information and asked the possibility to cover the story. Col. Oetomo welcome NHK and offer his generous assistance to us.
So on August 18, 1997 Mr. Sakamoto, Mr. Madini (camera assistant) and me arrived in Makassar. In the evening, during our dinner with Mr. Muchsin and his friend Mr. Edo, suddenly Mr. Sakamoto asked Mr. Muchsin the possibility of taking the bombing scene. Mr. Muchsin said it was difficult because the bombing usually took place far from the coast and the fishermen do not allow anyone to take the bombing scene
Mr. Sakamoto then asked the possibility to set up the bombing scene. And Mr. Muchsin said it was possible and he even can arranged the scene of making bomb. But for this arrangement, NHK should pay an amount of money. Mr. Sakamoto immediately was very interested and asked how much. Mr. Muchsin said, he needed Rp 500,000.- "Takai ne..."said Mr. Sakamoto to me and asked why so expensive. Muchsin said that the fisherman should by the bomb material in a bulk, not in retail.
When I heard this conversation, I immediately knew that it was a dangerous effort from Mr. Sakamoto. I told Mr. Sakamoto that this arrangement was wrong because it was illegal and un ethical from journalism point of view and dangerous because it could kill the fisherman or NHK team. And if this happened, NHK will be in trouble and we ourselves will be considered criminals. After a quite long discussion between me and Mr. Sakamoto, then Mr. Sakamoto said that for the moment he would not ask Mr. Muchsin to arrange such bomb-making and bomb-throwing, and he would see the possibility of having such kind of scenes in Kendari
So the next day NHK team flew to Kendari. We got generous assistance from Col Gito Oetomo and his staffs. We could use Navy ships, patrolling around Kendari sea. During three days in Kendari Mr. Sakamoto always looked for bombing scene. But all fishermen we approached, especially Mr. Manung, told us that they have stopped bombing. That's why when we returned from Kendari ti Makassar on August 23rd, Mr. Sakamoto told me that the pictures and story we got in Kendari had been very good, but it would be perfect if we could get bombing scene.
That's why during our dinner with Mr Muchsin, Mr. Sakamoto again asked the possibility of setting up the bomb-making and bomb-throwing scenes by fisherman. Again I rejected the idea. But Mr. Sakamoto insisted to arrange bomb-throwing scene. I argued with Mr. Sakamoto in a quite heated situation. Finally, I told him it would be better for him to call Kokusaibu to consult about this plan. At then end of the dinner, Mr. Sakamoto ask me to tell Mr. Muchsin that we did not decide yet about the arrangement and we would inform him in tomorrow morning. It was almost ten o'clock pm. Before going to bed, I went to have drinks in a bar in Losari beach, not far from our hotel. And when I returned to my hotel room around midnight, I got phone call from Mr. Sakamoto, saying that he already called Kokusaibu and decided to cancel the arrangement of bombing scenes.
The next day, on August 24, 2003, after shooting the fishermen who got sick because of natural diving and bombing, we left Barang Lompo Island. But not long after leaving the island, Mr. Sakamoto asked me to tell the motor-boat driver to go around the island. He wanted to see the situations there. The motor boat turned left and in few minutes, we saw a group of fishing boats. It seemed that Mr. Muchsin knew the fishermen well. Mr. Sakamoto asked if he could take the bombing scenes. After talking with the fisherman, Mr. Muchsin then told Mr. Sakamoto that the fisherman agreed but NHK should pay them because they had to buy bomb-materials and because there are not so many fishes in this area. Mr. Sakamoto said, "No problem”, and asked the assistant cameraman, Mr. Madini, to prepare the underwater microphone in order to record the sound of bombing. The shooting was very quick and no way for me to ask Mr. Sakamoto not to do this. I was sitting in the back-part of the boat and became interpreter when Mr. Sakamoto asked me. After finish taking the scenes, our motor boat approached the fishing boat, and Mr. Muchsin handed over money to the fisherman. Now, Mr. Muchsin and Mr. Daud told me that the amount of money was Rp. 50,000. But at that time, after arriving at Makassar, Mr. Muchsin told me that the cost was Rp 150,000.- So, NHK paid Mr. Muchsin Rp 150,000 for arranging the bombing scenes, together with his fees as coordinator.
When we had lunch in Ratu Muda restaurant, Mr. Sakamoto asked my opinion about the bombing scenes shooting. I told him, it was good but the problem was that NHK paid money to the fisherman. Mr. Sakamoto looked unhappy with my comment. I also told Mr. Muchsin about the problem. But Mr. Muchisn said that if someone asked about that he would be willing to explain that not NHK but he himself paid the money. Mr. Sakamoto looked very happy to hear Mr. Muchsin's suggestion. But again I told him about the problem, saying that from journalistic point of view, it was against ethics code. When on board the airplane from Makassar to Jakarta, I again warned him about this problem, Mr. Sakamoto said, "It is not your matter."
Our relationship is getting worse after that. One week later, when my working contract should be annually renewed, Mr. Sakamoto told me that the working contract would be on monthly basis, meaning it would end on September 30, 1997. Then a lot of events should be covered, including Garuda crash, the inauguration of new parliament members in October and Golkar anniversary on October 20, 1997. At the same time Mr. Sakamoto asked a law office in Jakarta about how to fire a staff of NHK who has been employed for about ten years. On October 25, 1997 the lawyer sent a reply to Mr. Sakamoto. Then on October 31, 1997 Mr. Sakamoto said that NHK Tokyo has decided not to continue employing me in NHK Jakarta.
I was shocked, and the first person I contacted was Mr. T. Sato, currently International News Director of NHK, because I had informed the fish-bombing scene arrangement in Makassar while we were covering Garuda crash in Medan, and Mr. Sato had known that my relationship with Mr. Sakamoto was getting worse. But I was surprised to hear Mr. Sato's suggestion via the phone: "Please accept the decision. Every bureau chief has his term, and you join NHK again after Mr. Sakamoto leaves Indonesia.' Again Mr. Sato ignored my complaints about Mr. Sakamoto's behavior, may be because he did not want to interfere the NHK Jakarta internal affairs, and he did not want have problems with Mr. Sakamoto. I was frustrated and send many lengthy letters to NHK top management, but again all of them ignored me. I told them I had original tape which clearly shows that the bombing scenes was arranged or fabricated. I asked them to send a senior NHK journalist to investigate this case, so that it can solved internally, but they just ignored me. At the same time NHK refused to pay me the appropriate compensation in accordance with the labor regulations.
Since I had to look for money in the time of very difficult economic condition, I almost forget the case. I had never disclosed this case to any other persons outside NHK until the end of August 1999. I was in Dili, East Timor, to cover the referendum of East Timor people at the End of August. At that time a reporter of NHK told me that Mr. Sakamoto always boasted to other NHK staffs that I was afraid to continue questioning the unsettle problems with NHK because I was aware that I was wrong. To hear that information, I became mad. I remembered a friend of mine who once told me that I was inconsistent: I was known as a reporter who always advocated the unfulfilled rights of groups like Heiho, jugun ianfu and Romusha since 1989, but I kept silent when my rights was violated by NHK... At that time I vowed to myself to fight against this unfair treatment by NHK. And I was lucky because by coincidence, in Dili on August 29, 1997 I met Prof. Kenichi Asano, whom I know as a good journalist and media watcher in Japan. I told him my story and the story of fish-bombing fabrication of NHK in Makassar. He said he was interested to the story.
After returning to Jakarta from East Timor, again I sent a letter to NHK but again they ignored me. Then I almost forgot NHK issues unless Prof. Asano sent me e-mails asking me about the story. He even asked me to send the original video tapes of the bombing scene. But I was reluctant since I think it would be better if NHK itself watched this video and decided who was wrong: me or Mr. Sakamoto. I told Prof. Asano that if he would like to write story about this media hoax, please come to Indonesia and at that time I would show him the original video. Then almost one year later after our meeting in Dili, Prof Asano came to Indonesia to carry out his investigation about this case. I rejected his request to accompany him to Makassar, because the investigation could be more objective without me. And after almost three years, for the first time I showed the original video tape of NHK fish-bombing arrangement or fabrication...
Strangely, one day before the article written by a tem of journalists, including Prof. Asano, was published in Gendai Monthly, NHK sued that magazine, asking pubic apology and 120 million yen as libel compensation. And to defend its position, NHK has made many statements against me which can be categorized as libel and defamation. NHK says that I have made up the story in order to get money; because I was fired by NHK; I have threatened Mr. Muchsin in order to support me against NHK etc.
NHK has also manipulated statement of Core-map, LIPI researcher, DR. Suharsono, in order to justify NHK practice in fabricating the fish-bombing scene. NHK forgets that LIPI is a government agency whose activity is legal and supported by many governmental agencies, and the program was done as a part of awareness campaign to protect the coral reef. Meanwhile NHK did not have any legal permit to ask and pay fisherman to throw the bomb, and then NHK claimed that the scene is natural. Dr. Suharsono told us recently that his statement has been manipulated by NHK for NHK interest.
NHK has also said that Col Gito Oetomo of Kendari Navy Base had suggested NHK to throw the bomb in the sea which did not have coral reefs in order to get the bombing scene. It is clear that it is fiction, as I had never heard such statement from Col Gito Oetomo while we ere in Kendari. I think NHK said so in order to justify its criminal and unethical activity in fabricating the fish-bombing scene.
NHK has transferred its responsibility in this unethical media practice to the Indonesian people: Mr. Daud and Mr. Muchsin. This is basically a colonial behaviour of NHK.
So, in order to rehabilitate my name, defamed by NHK, and to see justice done in this matter, I sue Mr. Sakamoto and NHK in Central Jakarta District Court. I will report to the police and ask them to indict Mr. Sakamoto and NHK as the master mind of this bombing crime. And I will suggest LIPI and Indonesian Navy to get clarification from NHK about the manipulation of statements which certainly defamed LIPI and Indonesian Navy.
In short, the reasons why I file law suit against NHK are:
・ Mr. Sakamoto and NHK have consistently defamed me and carry out character assassination in order to win in Tokyo court and to justify their unethical practice of arranging fish-bombing scene.
・ Too much lies and manipulations of NHK in this case. In the latest edition of Far Eastern Economic Review (January 30, 2003 page. 58) Steve Vickers, President and CEO of Hong Kong based- Risk International said: Fraud is the No. 1 non-operational cause of business failure in Asia. And in that regard, the most dangerous place is Japan, where "the roots (of fraud) are institutionalized, thanks to an over-reliance on internal audits and a culture that's afraid to confront authority.” From the beginning NHK has positioned itself to protect the unethical practice of Mr. Sakamoto, and because of that continuously telling lies in order to defame me and to win in the court. The unethical practice has been institutionalized in NHK and that's why NHK has never been willing to admit its mistakes and wrongdoings. I hope by suing NHK in Jakarta court, NHK will eventually change and admit its mistakes and unethical practices.
・ In July 1997, when Mr. Katsuji Ebisawa succeeded Mr. Kawaguchi as NHK's new president, Mr. Ebisawa said his most important mission is to ensure that NHK retains the full trust of the Japanese people. Now by suing NHK, I am trying to help Mr. Ebisawa to reach his most important mission, i.e. to retain the full trust of the Japanese people. I still love NHK and have many friends in NHK, and I want NHK to be cleaned up from the journalists who are willing to do unethical or even criminal practices only to have news scoop, and I want the Japanese people -the real owner of NHK- to clean up NHK from the management which protect the unethical or even criminal practices. I want NHK to be a trustworthy public TV, not only for Japan but also for the world.
Frans Padak Demon
Copyright (c) 2002, Prof.Asano Ken'ichi's Seminar Last updated 2003.02.19