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Friday, Aug. 5, 2011

Italian reporter caught in media glare

Kan friend and nuclear foe says terrorist 'ties' are overblown


Staff writer

Pio d'Emilia, an Italian journalist and long-term Tokyo resident who has been Prime Minister Naoto Kan's friend for about 20 years, has suddenly been put in the spotlight of the Japanese media for reportedly influencing Kan's position on nuclear power and his remote connection with an extreme leftist group.

News photo
"Amicizia": Italian journalist Pio d'Emilia and Prime Minister Naoto Kan get together on a street near the Diet in November 2004, when Kan was an opposition lawmaker. PIO D'EMILIA PHOTO

Kan had dinner with d'Emilia, 56, and other people on the night of June 29 at an Italian restaurant in Tokyo's Roppongi district after the prime minister had earlier gone to a sushi eatery and then to a "yakiniku" Korean barbecue restaurant.

The Nihon Keizai Shimbun on July 10 described Kan's dinner with d'Emilia, an outspoken nuclear opponent, as one in a series of study group meetings before the prime minister said July 13 that Japan should eventually terminate its reliance on nuclear power.

D'Emilia said he offered Kan advice on Japan's nuclear energy policy at the dinner table.

"I told (Mr.) Kan Japan should hold a national vote on whether to continue or abolish nuclear power, like Italy did," d'Emilia told The Japan Times by phone from a mountain resort in Italy.

The theme of the June 29 dinner was to celebrate publication of d'Emilia's Italian-language book "Tsunami Nucleare" ("Nuclear Tsunami"), he said.

Besides d'Emilia and Kan, the dinner was joined by Kan's wife and Katsunobu Sakurai, the mayor of Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, as well as novelist Randy Taguchi and a few others, d'Emilia said.

The small party was held after a ceremony at the Italian Cultural Institute in Chiyoda Ward earlier in the day marking the book's publication.

After the Nihon Keizai article, bloggers picked up a brief biography of d'Emilia from an event hall's website stating he used to be a lawyer for the Red Brigades, a Marxist-Leninist terrorist group active in Italy in the 1970s and early 1980s.

He once was a guest speaker at the event hall.

Then the Sankei Shimbun on Monday ran a story with a headline implying d'Emilia is behind Kan's antinuclear position and has connections with an extreme leftist group.

The paper quoted Takaya Shiomi, former chairman of the Red Army Faction, as saying, "I heard from (d'Emilia) a story implying he used to represent Red Brigades members."

The articles poke fun at Kan for the relationship, while some bloggers are highly critical.

D'Emilia is upset with the misleading report and Internet gossip.

After he graduated in Rome with a law degree in 1979, he interned at a legal firm there for less than a year, he said. The firm represented Red Brigades members as well as many other people, handling many human rights issues, he said, adding that is the only connection he has with the Red Brigades.

"Japanese media wrote without checking," he said.

When Kan was health minister in Ryutaro Hashimoto's administration in the late 1990s, d'Emilia, who was then in charge of international public relations for Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, became an adviser to Kan on how an opposition party can come to power.

Prodi's center-left party, Olive Tree, defeated the center-right Pole of Freedoms in the 1996 general election in Italy.

Since then, Kan and d'Emilia have been friends and have often gotten together with their family members, d'Emilia said, adding he invited Kan and his wife to his house in Italy when they visited the country.

They have avoided taking advantage of their private connection with each other after Kan became prime minister, d'Emilia said.

The correspondent for Italian news channel Sky TG24, who came to Japan in 1979, went to the Tohoku region, including the front gate of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, soon after the March 11 quake and tsunami.

He wrote "Tsunami Nucleare" based on his reporting in Tohoku during the first month after the tsunami. He is now working on publishing a Japanese version. There is no plan for an English version.

Tepco compensation

Kyodo

Tokyo Electric Power Co. may increase the number of employees working on paying compensation to people affected by the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant crisis by fivefold to about 5,000 by around September, company officials said.

The change is under consideration because a surge of applications for payments after the government panel on nuclear damage compensation compiles a medium-term guideline Friday.

The guideline is expected to include a wider range of nuclear damage subject to compensation, such as harm to tourist businesses in areas other than Fukushima Prefecture.

The utility expects the number of people subject to compensation to increase to 500,000 from the current 160,000 and sees the need to enhance preparations for the expected surge.

Tepco currently has 250 employees at a call center operated by its advisory office on the compensation issue, and 300 employees are engaged in the office's payment procedures. About 400 employees work at the utility's compensation advisory centers, which are mainly located in Fukushima Prefecture.

The utility plans to increase the number of workers engaged in such operations to 5,000, roughly one-seventh of its total workforce.



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