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PAY CUTS FOLLOW ASAHI FLAP

16 docked for interview with Peruvian rebel leader

TOKYO — A total of 16 people at Asahi National Broadcasting Co. (TV Asahi) will have their pay cut for three months as a disciplinary measure following the network’s getting an exclusive interview with the leader of the band of rebels holding 72 people hostage at the Japanese ambassador’s residence in Lima. The punishments were announced Wednesday and include TV Asahi president Kunio Ito, the broadcaster said.

Ito and senior managing director Susumu Iwata will each have their pay cut by 30% for a three-month period starting March 5. Another 10 of TV Asahi’s top executives will also find their paychecks 10% lighter for the same three-month period. Three other officials will also get the 10% cut.

TV Asahi said all of the 16 had some involvement in the interview with the guerrilla leader and with leaving a wireless transceiver in the compound. The company said it takes responsibility for the incident and that it will im-plement a new decision-making process to prevent this kind of incident from occurring again.

In addition, the head of TV Asahi’s press department, Yoshiharu Wakamura, was asked to leave his post.

On Jan. 7, Tsuyoshi Hitomi breached security around the ambassador’s residence and entered the compound with an interpreter to arrange an interview with the leader of the hostage takers, Nestor Cerpa Cartolini. Hitomi was attached to TV Asahi’s New York bureau at the time. Hitomi also left behind a walkie-talkie so that he could con-tinue to stay in touch with Cerpa and other members of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement.

After getting his exclusive interview, Hitomi and the interpreter were detained by police as they left the diplomatic compound. The two were released four days later, and Hitomi left for New York without being charged with a criminal offense.

In dispensing the punishments, TV Asahi said no action was taken against the reporter, but the others in the com-pany were given pay cuts for the press department’s delayed notification to others in the company of the trans-ceiver’s being left in the compound. The executive pay cuts were given for not notifying TV Asahi president Ito more quickly about the affair. Ito’s pay cut is a de jure practice in Japan where the head of a company takes re-sponsibility for any incident that tarnishes the name of the enterprise.

Top government officials and the Japanese media were quick to jump on the bandwagon in damning TV Asahi for its actions covering the hostage standoff when news of the walkie-talkie came to light in mid-February.

Japanese prime minister Ryutaro Hashimoto said bluntly, ”TV Asahi is causing us problems.”

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