IFJ Congress 2001: 33. Resolution on History Textbooks in Japan

33. Resolution on History Textbooks in Japan


1. Textbooks are classified as a special publication and are to be as they are used only for school education and can neither be arbitrarily purchased by teachers, children and students nor voluntarily chosen by children and students, and even teachers in some cases. Unlike books for general publication, the writing of textbooks requires the highest standards of integrity. In other words, “distortions should never occur in the contents of textbooks.” The controversy over Japan’s textbooks is a conflict concerning issues of the truth and the distortion of facts, and nothing else.

2. In Japan, textbook writing has been constrained by guidelines and censorship, while being subject to forced revision. Consequently, Japanese textbooks had to face many obstacles to carrying out their due responsibilities. In particular, Japan’s aggression in other Asian countries is still one of the thorniest issues in modern history. During the second dispute over Japan’s history textbooks in the early 1980s, the decision of the Japanese screening panel to revise “invasion” into “advance” was harshly criticized by many Asian countries. As a result, Japan had no choice but to promise the international community that it would insert a clause in its textbook screening guideline, stating: "Concerning relations with the neighboring Asian nations, necessary consideration should be given to the facts in modern history from the standpoint of international understanding and cooperation."

3. In the 1990s, “comfort women” who served as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers during World War II started to demand an official apology and compensation from the Japanese government. As the issue attracted the keen attention of the world community, Japanese Prime Minister Hosokawa in 1993 eventually admitted Japan’s aggression against Asian countries. In 1995, then Japanese Defense Minister Kono of the Murayama cabinet offered an apology to “comfort women” and decided to make war reparations using private funds, thereby making possible a far more objective writing of history on Japan’s invasion than in the past.

4. However, the Japanese government’s partial recognition of historical facts, an apology and the rewriting of history textbooks reflecting the changes, met with strong opposition from right-wing politicians and historians. Riding on the opposition of these right-wing forces came the birth of the “Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform” and their writing of history textbooks for junior high schools. They argued that the currently compiled history textbooks are based on a “masochistic view of history” and that “degeneration in Japan’s education is attributed to textbooks that deprive the Japanese people of national pride.”

5. Japanese history textbooks compiled by right-wing historians justify all the acts of military aggression carried out by Japan while steadfastly refusing to call it ‘invasion.’ Even during the initial screening process, no fundamental corrections to their arguments have been made. Japan’s screening process was originally designed to check the standards of study guidelines for writing textbooks. With this censorship system in place, however, it is logically impossible to correct the distortions in the history textbooks, as the new study guidelines do not contain anything that admit to Japan’s aggression.

6. In addition, the ultranationalists have appealed or filed complaints to the local legislature to make the textbook selection structure work to their advantage. They claim that “the right to select textbooks lies with the Education Committee,” and that “teachers should be excluded from selecting textbooks, as they are susceptible to bias.”

7. Considering this, it is imperative that textbooks compiled by the “Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform” do not make their way into Japan’s classrooms. The right-wing historians had no qualms about distorting historical facts for their own purposes. The fact that the controversial history textbooks are being freely circulated in Japan presents a high risk of misleading the younger generation of Japan with distortion. We, as journalists, will not tolerate this blatant act committed by Japanese ultra rightists. The legal battle surrounding this issue will not come to anything should we choose to remain indifferent, which we will NOT do.

8. The UNESCO Basic Recommendation Concerning Education for International Understanding, Co-operation and Peace, and Education Relating to Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (adopted in 1974) states, “Textbooks should be free from elements liable to give rise to misunderstanding, mistrust, racialist reactions, contempt or hatred with regard to other groups or peoples. We, journalists from all across the world, express our profound concerns about Japan’s distortion of history and its preoccupation on seeking hegemonic national interests and glossing over war atrocities. Young people are leaders of the future. Therefore, for the future of humanity, textbooks for the young generation should contain contents that teach friendship and peace between nations, peoples and groups. Based on this belief, we, journalists from all around the world, hereby declare our strong resolve to be united as one in order to correct Japan’s history textbooks that distort the past and provide wrong directions for the future.