A highly respected and beloved Japanese newscaster has stepped down from his role in a yet-to-be-aired evening news show following sexual assault allegations.
Junichi Tosaka worked at public broadcaster NHK for 20 years before resigning recently to freelance. He was scheduled to become the main presenter on Fuji TV's Prime News, set to launch in April.
The accusations stemmed from an article issued on January 25 in Shukan Bunshun weekly, a tabloid in Japan. It accused Tosaka of sitting next to another newscaster at a restaurant in June 2011, before "touching her knees as if he was rubbing her" and whispering to her to "sneak out of the restaurant together".
The woman allegedly tried to escape to a restroom but a friend that was present says she was followed by Tosaka who attempted to kiss her and touch her breasts. A lawyer representing the woman told Shukan Bunshun "the incident did happen", but that it had been handled appropriately at the time: "It's something that happened in the past so we'd like to refrain from talking further about this incident."
Last week, the president of Fuji Television Network, Masaki Miyauchi, expressed his remorse regarding the situation at a press conference.
"We put Tosaka as a newscaster for the upcoming news show, but he has declined the offer," he said. "It is regrettable that it ended up like this."
Executive managing director of Fuji Network Television Ichiro Kishimoto said the company would be investigating whether it collected enough information about Tosaka before hiring him.
In a statement sent to the media through his agency, Tosaka denied the allegations of sexual harassment. "With the trouble caused by the reporting I have declined to be on the show," said the statement.
"I'm confounded by a lot that I am not guilty of and it is very unfortunate. However, my real intention is not to hurt the new, important show, and I have come to realise that it is important to have dignity by resigning myself.
"I will continue to challenge myself with a variety of jobs in the future."
Brad Esposito is a news reporter for BuzzFeed and is based in Sydney, Australia.
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