Fukushima, Year 5, and Counting...

Nine days ago, March 11, marked Japan’s slide into Year No. 5 of the Fukushima nuclear crisis. So much has happened these past five years, and yet so little seems to have been meaningfully accomplished in the way of resolving what can be called without exaggeration the worst nuclear accident in the history of humankind.

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Where is the People’s Tribunal on Fukushima?

Leaders of three powerful nations were being tried in public in Japan in summer 2004, more than a year after the United States invaded the nation of Iraq, and it was an incredible scene to witness. This was no small matter, either: U.S. president George W. Bush, British prime minister Tony Blair and Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi were being charged with crimes against humanity in connection with the Iraq invasion and/or support for that invasion.

I sat transfixed in the audience of a public hall in the downtown Japanese city of Kyoto, astonished that such a scene was playing out right before me. On stage there were prosecuting attorneys representing the public, defense attorneys representing the three leaders on trial and a procession of witnesses — including some Iraqi exiles who had come all the way to Japan just to testify about the tragedy befalling their country.

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The True Face of TEPCO

The Fukushima nuclear crisis of March 2011 revealed many unsavory truths about the Japanese press, the nuclear power industry and the government’s so-called nuclear regulatory agencies that had lay hidden and mostly unreported for decades here in Japan.

But recently we have been getting a close-up look at just how arrogant the operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), has been in dealing with the Japanese public — and indeed the world — in this post-Fukushima age we now live in.

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‘No One Will Ever Know’

I got a phone call one day from my boss, an overweight, middle-aged publisher of a small, weekly newspaper in my town in southern California, to go to a nearby hospital and interview some person for a story. The guy had something to say about some kind of nuclear accident, my boss said, look into it.

A young cub reporter in my early 20s, fresh to the scene and always hungry for a scoop, I called the man at the hospital and made an appointment. It was circa 1980-1981, and the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in Pennsylvania in 1979 was still a hot news topic in the United States. A nationwide grassroots anti-nuclear movement was then being born. I was curious about what the man at the hospital wanted to talk about.

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‘On the Road to Fukushima’

When I was invited a couple of years ago to contribute a chapter for the book Censored 2013, published by the media watch/media literacy group Project Censored in the United States, I knew exactly what angle I wanted to take in writing it.

The nuclear power plant meltdown at Fukushima, Japan on 11 March 2011 immediately raised a lot of questions in the Japanese and overseas press that focused on the urgency of the accident: How serious is it? What levels of radiation are being released? What precautions should people take in protecting themselves? What measures are being taken to contain the crisis?, and so on.

But as time went on, I found that there was one pressing question that the news media in Japan, in particular, seemed to be missing altogether: How did we get here?

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Fukushima and Censorship

The most exciting news these past few months for me has been the recent release of the book CENSORED 2013: The Top Censored Stories and Media Analysis of 2011-12, the latest edition of a book that is published every year by Seven Stories Press in New York. The book is compiled and organized by the media watch group Project Censored, based in northern California.

It’s exciting because I have contributed, for the first time, a new chapter to this book, titled “On the Road to Fukushima: The Unreported Story Behind Japan’s Nuclear-Media-Industrial Complex”. My chapter concerns the broad issue of news media censorship in Japan and the Fukushima nuclear accident of March 2011.

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