Fukushima cover up — CounterPunch

” It is literally impossible for the world community to get a clear understanding of, and truth about, the Fukushima nuclear disaster. This statement is based upon The Feature article in Columbia Journalism Review (“CJR”) d/d October 25, 2016 entitled: “Sinking a Bold Foray Into Watchdog Journalism in Japan” by Martin Fackler.

The scandalous subject matter of the article is frightening to its core. Essentially, it paints a picture of upending and abolishing a 3-year attempt by one of Japan’s oldest and most liberal/intellectual newspapers, The Asahi Shimbun (circ. 6.6 mln) in its effort of “watchdog journalism” of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. In the end, the newspaper’s special watchdog division suffered un-preannounced abrupt closure.

The CJR article, whether intentionally or not, is an indictment of right wing political control of media throughout the world. The story is, moreover, extraordinarily scary and of deepest concern because no sources can be counted on for accurate, truthful reporting of an incident as powerful and deadly dangerous as the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima. Lest anybody in class forgets, three nuclear reactors at Fukushima Diiachi Nuclear Power Plant experienced 100% meltdown, aka The China Syndrome over five years ago.

The molten cores of those reactors melted down to a stage called corium, which is a lumpy hunk of irradiating radionuclides so deadly that robotic cameras are zapped! The radioactivity is powerful, deadly and possessed of frightening longevity, 100s of years. Again for those who missed class, TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) has no idea where those masses of sizzling hot radioactive goo are today. Did they burrow into the ground? Nobody knows, but it is known that those blobs of radioactivity are extraordinarily dangerous, as in deathly, erratically spewing radioactivity “who knows where”?

Fukushima is a national/worldwide emergency that is the worst kept secret ever because everybody knows it is happening; it is current; it is alive; it is deadly; it has killed (as explained in several prior articles) and will kill many more as well as maim countless people over many decades (a description of radiation’s gruesomeness follows later on in this article).

Yet, the Abe administration is talking to Olympic officials about conducting Olympic events, like baseball, in Fukushima for Tokyo 2020. Are they nuts, going off the deep end, gone mad, out of control? After all, TEPCO readily admits (1) the Fukushima cleanup will take decades to complete, if ever completed, and (2) nobody knows the whereabouts of the worlds most deadly radioactive blobs of sizzling hot masses of death and destruction, begging the question: Why is there a Chernobyl Exclusion Zone of 1,000 square miles after one nuclear meltdown 30 years ago, but yet Fukushima, with three meltdowns, each more severe than Chernobyl, is already being repopulated? It doesn’t compute!

The short answer is the Abe administration claims the radioactivity is being cleaned up. A much longer answer eschews the Abe administration by explaining the near impossibility of cleaning up radioactivity throughout the countryside. There are, after all, independent organizations with boots on the ground in Fukushima (documented in prior articles) that tell the truth, having measured dangerous levels of radiation throughout the region where clean up crews supposedly cleaned up.

The Columbia Journalism Review article, intentionally or not, paints a picture of “journalism by government decree” in Japan, which gainsays any kind of real journalism. It’s faux journalism, kinda like reading The Daily Disneyworld Journal & Times.

Based upon the CJR article: “The hastiness of the Asahi’s retreat raised fresh doubts about whether such watchdog journalism— an inherently risky enterprise that seeks to expose and debunk, and challenge the powerful—is even possible in Japan’s big national media, which are deeply tied to the nation’s political establishment.”

Japan’s journalists belong to “press clubs,” which are exclusively restricted to the big boys (and girls) from major media outlets, where stories are hand-fed according to government officialdom, period. It is the news, period! No questions asked, and this is how Asahi got into trouble. They set up a unit of 30-journalists to tell the truth about Fukushima and along the way won awards for journalism, until it suddenly, abruptly stopped. A big mystery ensues….

According to the CJR article, “The Investigative Reporting Section [Asahi] proved an instant success, winning Japan’s top journalism award two years in a row for its exposure of official cover-ups and shoddy decontamination work around the nuclear plant.”

Furthermore, according to the CJR article: “The abrupt about-face by the Asahi, a 137-year-old newspaper with 2,400 journalists that has been postwar Japan’s liberal media flagship, was an early victory for the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which had sought to silence critical voices as it moved to roll back Japan’s postwar pacifism, and restart its nuclear industry.”

And, furthermore, the truth be told: “In Japanese journalism, scoops usually just mean learning from the ministry officials today what they intend to do tomorrow,’ says Makoto Watanabe, a former reporter in the section who quit the Asahi in March because he felt blocked from doing investigative reporting. ‘We came up with different scoops that were unwelcome in the Prime Minister’s Office.”

It comes as no surprise that Reporters Without Borders lowered Japan’s rating from 11th in 2010 (but one has to wonder how they ever got that high) to 72nd in this years annual ranking of global press freedoms, released on April 20, 2016.

Koichi Nakano, a professor of politics at Sophia University in Tokyo, says: “Emasculating the Asahi allowed Abe to impose a grim new conformity on the media world.”

When considering the awards Asahi won during its short foray into investigative journalism, like Japan’s equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize in 2012 for reporting about a gag-order on scientists after the Fukushima disaster and the government’s failure to release information about radiation to evacuating residents, now that Asahi has been forced to put a lid on “investigative journalism” and it must toe the line in “press clubs,” any and all information about the dangers or status of Fukushima are ipso facto suspect!

The world is dead silent on credible information about the world’s biggest disaster! (Which causes one to stop and think… really a lot.)

The evidence is abundantly clear that there is no trustworthy source of information about the world’s biggest nuclear disaster, and likely one of the biggest dangers to the planet in human history. However, time will tell as radiation exposure takes years to show up in the human body. It’s a silent killer but cumulates over time. Fukushima radiation goes on and on, but nobody knows what to do. To say the situation is scandalous is such a gross understatement that it is difficult to take it as seriously as it really should be taken. But, it is scandalous, not just in Japan but for the entire planet.

After all, consider this, 30 years after the fact, horribly deformed Chernobyl children are found in over 300 asylums in the Belarus backwoods deep in the countryside. Equally as bad but maybe more odious, as of today, Chernobyl radiation (since 1986) is already affecting 2nd generation kids.

According to USA Today, Chernobyl’s Legacy: Kids With Bodies Ravaged by Disaster, April 17, 2016: “There are 2,397,863 people registered with Ukraine’s health ministry to receive ongoing Chernobyl-related health care. Of these, 453,391 are children — none born at the time of the accident. Their parents were children in 1986. These children have a range of illnesses: respiratory, digestive, musculoskeletal, eye diseases, blood diseases, cancer, congenital malformations, genetic abnormalities, trauma.”

It’s taken 30 years for the world, via an article in USA Today, to begin to understand how devastating, over decades, not over a few years, radiation exposure is to people. It is a silent killer that cumulates in the body over time and passes from generation to generation to generation, endless destruction that cannot be stopped! ”

by Robert Hunziker

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Are forces of darkness gathering in Japan? — The Japan Times opinion

” Certainly it’s worse in China, South Korean security recently beat demonstrators and Spain faces a blanket gag rule, but are concerns about the anti-democratic forces of darkness in Japan unduly alarmist? How bad can it be if protestors in Hibiya Park can carry placards depicting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as Adolf Hitler?

Bad enough, alas. New York Times Tokyo bureau chief Martin Fackler, among others, recently implicated Team Abe in getting Shigeaki Koga, a prominent Abe critic, axed from Asahi TV’s “Hodo Station” program.

“I am afraid that media organizations’ self-restraint is spreading and, as a result, accurate information is not reaching the public,” Koga said at a press conference, claiming he was the victim of a political vendetta and corporate media timidity.

Mindful of the orchestrated attacks on the Asahi’s news organs and fearful of right-wing reprisals, self-censorship is a growing problem. Columbia University’s Gerald Curtis told me about the recent cancellation of a planned television interview that was to take place in New York. The local correspondent informed him that the Japanese network’s management in Tokyo nixed the interview because it was going to assess how Abe has handled the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, and this topic was deemed too sensitive.

Curtis says the worrying lesson here is that “the government doesn’t have to muzzle the press if the press takes it upon itself to do the muzzling.”

But the government is taking no chances.

Conservative Abe cronies were appointed to NHK’s top management last year, and Katsuto Momii, a man without any media experience, was named chairman. He later declared to the press, “When the government is saying ‘Right’ we can’t say ‘Left.’”

Since Momii began promoting this curious vision at NHK, staff have complained that managers are strictly insisting on wording that hues to government views on controversial topics such as Yasukuni Shrine, disputed territories and the “comfort women.” To ensure conformity, NHK now publishes an internal censorship manual, called the “Orange Book,” banning the use of the term “sex slaves” and other phrases identified as problematic. NHK insiders told me that some recalcitrant staff suffered career derailments because they didn’t toe the line, including a group that openly called on Momii to step down.

There is no smoking gun, and it could be a routine staff rotation, but an apparent casualty of the purge is NHK’s “News Watch 9″ anchor Kensuke Okoshi, who has spoken out against nuclear power and committed other “transgressions.”

Controversy erupted last summer when Naoki Hyakuta, a best-selling writer and conservative on history issues, was handpicked by Abe to serve on NHK’s board of governors. Hyakuta criticized Okoshi’s on-air comments about ethnic Korean residents in Japan that were aired July 17, 2014. Okoshi said: “The first-generation Korean residents were those who were forcibly brought to Japan or moved to the country to seek jobs after the annexation of Korea in 1910. They had a lot of difficulties establishing their foundations for living.”

At the subsequent NHK board of governors meeting, Hyakuta reportedly asked: “Is it acceptable to say ethnic Korean residents are those who were forcibly taken by Japan? That is wrong.”

The acting chair informed Hyakuta that as a governor, comments about the content of an individual program violated the broadcasting law. Hyakuta has since resigned his position, complaining he wasn’t able to have any impact, but one can imagine that NHK staff felt his presence, and indeed Okoshi is no longer a newscaster despite being one of the most respected in the business.

“The systematic suppression of the press and freedom of speech by the Abe government and its functionaries is very, very disturbing in terms of its effects on the future course of Japan and its democracy,” says Ayako Doi, a journalist based in the United States who is currently an associate fellow of the Asia Society. In her view, things have gotten significantly worse under Abe. She cites the Liberal Democratic Party’s summons of Japanese media executives, the Japanese consul general in Frankfurt’s visit to the editors of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and a Foreign Ministry official’s visit to publisher McGraw-Hill in New York to ask for changes in the descriptions of Japan’s comfort women system of sexual slavery written in a U.S. history textbook.

“They have become more numerous, blatant and unapologetic,” she says, adding that the government is targeting both Japanese and non-Japanese critics alike.

Japan Times columnist Gregory Clark says the atmosphere of intimidation has become exceptionally “ugly,” attributing it to a “right-wing rebound and revenge.”

“Something strange is going on,” he says, citing recent attacks on progressive media. “Particularly given that Tokyo keeps talking about its value identification with the West.”

Well-placed sources in Washington previously told me that even overseas the Japanese government actively disparages Abe’s critics, something that Doi isn’t surprised by.

“It seems that under the Abe government, efforts to silence critics of his policies and interpretation of history have become systematic,” she says. “It now appears to be a concerted effort orchestrated by Kantei (the prime minister’s office).”

Japan’s right-wing media also engages in trans-Pacific intimidation. For example, a rightwing pundit slammed the National Bureau of Asian Research’s Japan-U.S. Discussion Forum, making groundless accusations about an anti-Japan bias. He also attacked the Japan Foundation’s Center for Global Partnership for sponsoring a research project regarding Sino-Japanese relations and history issues. This research project was deemed a waste of Japanese taxpayers’ money and some of the researchers were subject to defamatory attacks on their professional integrity. But it would be a sad day for Japanese democracy if the right wing gets to set the research agenda, pick the scholars and decide what they should conclude.

Clark himself was publicly defamed for his alleged anti-Japanese views because he raised some questions about government and media representations concerning the North Korean abductions of Japanese nationals. Following that, he says his university employer received a cascade of threatening letters demanding he be sacked.

“Requests to write articles for the magazines and newspapers I had long known dried up,” Clark says. “Invitations to give talks on Japan’s lively lecture circuit died overnight. One of Japan’s largest trading companies abruptly canceled my already-announced appointment as outside board director with the vague excuse of wanting to avoid controversy.”

Lamentably, he added, “You cannot expect anyone to come to your aid once the nationalistic right-wing mood creators, now on the rise, decide to attack you. Freedom of speech and opinion is being whittled away relentlessly.”

Exposing such orchestrated attacks and highlighting the dangers of self-censorship are all the more important in contemporary Japan because, as Doi puts it, media freedom is “sliding down a slippery slope” and it’s important to “speak out before the momentum becomes unstoppable.” ”

by Jeff Kingston

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Newsroom revolution, empowering the people — Jun Hori via TED Talks, Kyoto 2013; Japan’s timid coverage of Fukushima led this news anchor to revolt — PRI

Jun Hori, a former news anchor for NHK, the Japanese state broadcaster, quit his job because of the pressures on NHK to restrict and censor news in Japan, especially news regarding the Fukushima nuclear power plant. He began his own public participation news site, 8bitnews.org, where thousands of Japanese and global citizens have posted videos that are verified for information accuracy and fairness by an advisory board made up of a variety of professionals. I applaud his courage and efforts to provide transparency and access to information with delicate topics like nuclear energy that is otherwise censored in Japan. I encourage you to watch his TED Talk in Kyoto, 2013, on open journalism and public access and to read the related article below. You can access English subtitles on the TED Talk by clicking the CC icon at the bottom right corner of the video.

PRI: ” No one is telling Shiga Kamematsu the truth.

It’s been three-and-a-half years since 83-year-old Kamematsu left his home, with its rice patties, vegetable fields and 10 cows, fleeing the disaster at the nearby Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor. He still can’t go back.

When will it be ready for people again? No one seems to know — or be interested in telling him. “I can’t take my land with me,” he says, “so I don’t know what to do. I can’t see ahead.”

Kamematsu is one of about 80,000 people in Japan still officially displaced by the nuclear crisis. Questions remain about radiation levels, the clean-up process and when residents can return home. Yasuhiko Tajima, a professor of media studies at Tokyo’s Sophia University, says many Japanese are frustrated by what they see as a lack of information.

Japanese journalists did what Tajima calls “announcement journalism” in reporting on the crisis. He says they were reporting the press releases of big companies and the people in power. And he’s not the only one who thinks so.

“I am a newscaster, but I couldn’t tell the true story on my news program,” says Jun Hori, a former anchor for NHK, the Japanese state broadcaster.

Hori says the network restricted what he and other journalists could say about Fukushima and moved more slowly than foreign media to report on the disaster and how far radiation was spreading. The attitude in the newsroom was not to question official information

“I was on the ground in Fukushima, and a lot of people kept asking me, why didn’t you tell us earlier about what is happening?” Hori says.

Out of frustration, Hori started tweeting uncensored coverage. “I got a huge response,” he says, “but then my superiors said the NHK was getting complaints from politicians about what I was saying. They told me I had to stop.”

Hori eventually quit the NHK and started his own website for citizen journalism — 8-Bit news. He says Fukushima showed people in Japan that they had to be proactive about getting information. Anyone can submit videos and news content to his site.

“Until now, the Japanese thought someone was doing it: companies, the government, someone,” Hori says. “But once you peeled back the cover, you saw that nobody was doing it.”

That’s backed up by outside observers as well: Japan has dropped 31 places since 2011 in a World Press Freedom ranking compiled by the group Reporters Without Borders. The group cites “a lack of transparency and almost zero respect for access to information on subjects directly or indirectly related to Fukushima.”

In a statement, NHK said it covered the event accurately and promptly reported a meltdown. It did not address claims that it faced outside pressure from politicians to restrict Hori’s Twitter account.

Hori’s 8-Bit is part of wave of new media launched since Fukushima, spanning everything from blogs and social media to documentaries. Yasumi Iwakami started one of the first efforts. He took live streaming video of press conferences and other coverage and loaded them up to a site called the Independent Web Journal.

“We just kept the cameras running all the time,” Iwakami says. “Even during the breaks at press conferences. We interviewed everyone we could.”

If you want to say something clearly and directly in Japan, Iwakami says, it takes a lot of effort. You have to do something drastic — like start a streaming news site run on donations. “That’s very crazy!” he says.

It is a big change from Japan’s traditional media, says Benjamin Ismail, head of the Asia-Pacific desk for Reporters Without Borders. He says that in covering Fukushima, self-censorship was a big issue.

“Some of the journalists really believed they had a duty not to create a global panic,” Ismail says, “and therefore they had to withhold some of the information they obtained.”

Ismail hopes Japan’s alternative media can gain steam, especially because there’s not much time to act. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is moving ahead on restarting the nuclear industry, and the first reactors are projected to be back online by next year. ”

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