Touchy book on Japan royals faces ad ban-publisher

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TOKYO, Sep 21 (Reuters) Japan's main newspapers have all refused to carry advertisements for a biography of the country's troubled crown princess that triggered official protests from Tokyo, the book's publisher and author said today.

Daisan Shokan, Tokyo-based publisher of the Japanese version of ''Princess Masako - Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne'', said all the dailies had turned the advertisements down.

''The six major newspapers have rejected the ads for this book completely,'' said company president Akira Kitagawa.

''Newspapers ... ought to make freedom of speech their basic principle as media independent from the judgment of officials,'' Kitagawa said in a statement released at a news conference.

Masako, 43, once a lively career diplomat, has been largely absent from the public eye for the past three years, suffering from a mental disorder palace officials have attributed to the stress of adjusting to life in the imperial palace.

The Japanese version of the book, written by Australian journalist Ben Hills, went on sale last month after a six-month-long fuss over government protests, a print cancellation and several death threats to the author.

The book asserts that Masako is severely depressed, not suffering a mild ''adjustment disorder'' as the Imperial Household Agency insists, and that Princess Aiko, Masako's daughter, might have been conceived by in vitro fertilisation.

A spokesman for the Nikkei business daily said the newspaper had decided to postpone running the ad for an indefinite period based on the company's internal guidelines.

Spokesmen for the Asahi, Yomiuri, Mainichi, Sankei and Chunichi newspapers were not immediately available for comment.

The original English-language book was published in October 2006 by Random House Australia, and a Japanese translation was to have been released by Japanese publisher Kodansha Ltd.

But Kodansha scrapped the plan following the author's refusal to apologise for what the publisher called factual errors that it had already corrected with his consent prior to the Japanese government's protests.

Hills reiterated that he saw Kodansha's decision as censorship.

The Japanese government has denied exerting pressure to prevent publication of the book, which royal watchers said broke little fresh ground but was likely to have offended conservative palace officials.

Daisan Shokan's translation went on sale in Japan in August and has made the bestseller lists in some Tokyo bookstores.

Hill said his book had already been published in Australia, the United States and Taiwan, and would also be marketed in China, Indonesia, Turkey and Romania.

REUTERS ARB RN1602

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