Uesugi Takashi on sengoku 38 and the Japanese media
Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, November 16, 2010
THE MAN who used the screen name of sengoku 38 to post the Coast Guard’s video of the incident near the Senkakus to YouTube has confessed his involvement to authorities. Just before the Coast Guard sailor came forward last week, freelance journalist Uesugi Takashi wrote an article for Diamond Online excoriating the Japanese media for their behavior. Mr. Uesugi does not hide his support for the Democratic Party of Japan, but he also thinks a journalist should have higher priorities. Here’s a summary/translation of most of it in English.
All you read or hear from morning to night is, “Where did it come from? Who leaked it?”
Just what is the Japanese mass media doing? Rather than getting fed up with it all, I can only laugh that the kisha club media still doesn’t get it.
The media always gets suckered by the bureaucrats to handle their spin control, and the Japanese government must be delighted. If politicians overseas knew what went on, they’d probably be envious. There aren’t many countries where the media would work with the government to look for and expose a valuable information source. The Kan administration should take better care of their kisha club, who are such superb spin doctors…
The most basic role of journalism is to monitor authority. Put another way, they should reveal the facts the government would hide and uphold the people’s right to know…That’s the universal rule of journalism and the meaning for its existence, whether in the United States, China, South America, or the Mideast.
Only the kisha club media in Japan is the exception.
Today (10 November) on a morning TV program, commentators and broadcasters thundered that the government can’t manage information. These are the same people who always shout at the top of their lungs about the “people’s right to know”, yet they don’t care about that this time around. They’re falling all over themselves hunting with the government for the perpetrator.
Has the media forgotten the lessons of the past? About 30 years ago, Nishiyama Takichi, a reporter for the Mainichi Shimbun, had a scoop exposing a secret agreement between Japan and the U.S. about Okinawa. The government arrested him and the kisha club media drove him from the fourth estate.
Now, 30 years later, it is clear that was a mistake. In March, then-Foreign Minister Okada Katsuya led a search that discovered the agreement. In short, the kisha club media was unable to protect one journalist who exposed an inconvenient truth that the government had covered up.
It’s the same thing all over again. Someone uploaded the video on You Tube and did us the favor of exposing information the government covered up. That was the media’s obligation to begin with. They’re treating sengoku 38 as a criminal when they should be paying him respect as the man who upheld the citizens’ right to know. But other than the Sankei Shimbun, none of them are doing it.
If the media would completely deny the act of sengoku 38, it is also a denial of their own job. One of the most basic roles for journalists is to expose information that conceals authority and present it to the people. If the media exclude leaked information that was obtained from authority, that job becomes impossible.
Ordinarily, the kisha club media of television and newspapers disseminate news they trumpet as an exclusive scoop or something only they acquired.
In other words, when they do it, it’s reporting, but when it happens on the Net or the alternative media, they want to call it a leak. That’s just a problem of face for the kisha club media, and that is nothing but arrogance.
Incidentally, my position from the beginning was that even if the video was leaked, the information should have been made available. That would serve both the citizens’ right to know and the national interest.
With the exception of non-fiction writer Uozumi Akira, that is also the position of nearly every freelance journalist. (In the 9 November edition of the morning edition of the Asahi Shimbun, Mr. Uozumi wrote, “Secrecy is a part of diplomacy, and the right to know the truth should not necessarily take priority.”)
His stand of speaking up for authority is an exception. Unfortunately, Mr. Uozumi has denied the work of Nishiyama Takichi and forgotten the lessons of the Okinawa secret treaty.
I don’t care at all that the government is looking for the perpetrator. But that’s completely wrong for journalism—in fact, they should be doing the opposite.
The media must be united now to stand up against the government’s cover-up and continue to work to expose the truth.
Rather than try to discover the identity of sengoku 38, they should be trying to discover why the Kan administration had to cover up the Senkakus video for the past month.
Here’s a previous post describing Mr. Uesugi’s efforts to break the kisha club monopoly on news conference attendance when the Hatoyama administration took office.