According to World Press Freedom Index 2013 released by Reporters without Borders recently, Japan’s ranking plummeted 31 places from 22nd to 53rd this year. This press freedom watchdog criticized Japan’s lack of transparency and zero respect for access to information regarding on issues related directly or indirectly to the Fukushima disaster, which occurred in March 2011.
The nuclear industry has been a sensitive topic in Japan for years. After Fukushima disaster, the tension has increased to a whole new level. In May 2012, a 52-year-old freelancer Minoru Tanaka, who had written investigative articles about the nuclear industry, was sued by one of Japan’s most powerful nuclear industry figures, for $858,000 (67 million yen) over libel, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported.
Tanaka’s article touched upon the deep collusion between Japan’s nuclear industry and politicians. The plaintiff of the lawsuit, Shiro Shirakawa is the president of the nuclear safety company New Tech. He complained the word “fixer” used in Tanaka’s article as insulting and defamatory. (In Japan, fixer refers to someone who arranges profitable business with dubious methods.)
Most freelancers and foreign correspondents considered this lawsuit as an attempt to deter journalists from investigating nuclear industry, and in particularly how Fukushima accident was handled, Reporters without Borders said.
A recent study from Europe Environmental Agency said that Fukushima disaster may have released twice as much radiation as Japanese government admitted, the Guardian reported.
In Japan, independent journalists like Tanaka are excluded from the Kisha Clubs — Japan’s press club — from which reporters gain access to governmental agencies and seek for certain degree of protection. Japan’s failure to reform its Kisha Club system also contributed to its sharp drop in Reporters with Borders’s press freedom index.
Reporters without Borders warned Japan that a sharp fall like this is alarming for a country with good ranking previously.
By Dandan Zou.