When Freedom of the Press Means ‘Unfree’

An independent journalist decided earlier this month to travel overseas to the Middle Eastern nation of Yemen, hoping to cross over legally into the war-torn country and report on the dangerous situation there. Saudi Arabia, using military weapons supplied in part by its ally, the United States, has joined the civil war in Yemen, one of the poorest nations in the Arab world, and the result is one of the worst humanitarian crises of our time. This particular journalist decided to take a risk and try to get into Yemen, with the idea of telling the world what is really happening there on the ground. That is what journalists do, after all.

But when the journalist tried to board an airline flight to the Middle East, he was stopped cold at a major international airport in Japan by an unexpected source: the government of his own country. Passport officials invalidated his passport right there at the airport and ordered him to surrender the passport or face the consequences. The journalist was effectively banned from traveling outside of his country and is now prevented from doing his job.

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Parry’s Way: Journalism as It Should be Done

All the recent obituaries, eulogies and rightful praise for the work of the late American investigative journalist Robert Parry have now moved on by, leaving us only to reflect on the impact that his kind of journalism has had on the mass media field in our time and, just as importantly, where that kind of journalism could and should go from here.

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Three Books in the Bag (or, A Year of Living Creatively)

It is always worth a celebration when you get a book project finished. You naturally want to share with the world the results of your labor, and you watch with great anticipation how your work is being received one way or the other. These past few years I’ve been lucky enough to get at least one book project (and sometimes two) brought to completion in a year’s time.

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‘Censored’ — the Missing News Stories

How come I never heard about that in the news?

If you’ve ever asked yourself that question about some important issue you’ve found out about long after it occurred, then you’re not alone. I find myself asking that very same question every year around this time, when the latest edition of the annual Censored book comes out in the United States.

Censored 2016 has just been released, and with it comes the same old question about why I’ve never read, viewed or heard about certain big news stories that were not really considered “hot news” enough to be reported in depth by the major U.S. news media companies (and by extension, the corporate-dominated Japanese press as well).

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The Stain of Sexual Slavery

The Japanese government’s censorship of nationally used school textbooks — deleting or downplaying the many bad things Japan did during World War II — has been going on for decades. But it is only recently, with a neo-fascist prime minister back in power, that such official censorship is now moving into dangerous areas beyond Japan’s borders and into textbooks used in overseas countries.

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Where the Real Obscenity Lies

Rokude Nashiko, a manga comic book and visual artist based in Tokyo, was arrested in July of this year and detained by police. Her crime? Posting and distributing information pertaining to vaginal art — thinly disguised, sculpted images of her own genitals, to be exact. She faced a possible two years in prison for making such “obscene” images public through her website, which she operates openly and legally.

Thousands of people in Japan, and apparently abroad too, took exception to the heavy-handed Japanese police actions and put a public petition in motion. Within a week Rokude Nashiko (her artistic name and a play on words, loosely translated as “Good-for-Nothing Girl”) was released from custody, the police apparently too embarrassed by the publicity to keep her any longer.

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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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Two Books and a Celebration

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged in here, as I was waiting for the news to become official. And now it has: Two book projects I worked on this year have reached completion and the books recently published — and along with them, a good cause for personal celebration on my part.

The first book, Censored 2014, published by Seven Stories Press of New York, contains my analysis of some of the news stories that have been avoided, ignored, neglected or otherwise censored by the U.S. corporate-dominated press, as chosen by the nonprofit media-watch group Projected Censored.

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Fighting Back in the War on Truth

The American people do love their wars. Every few years there’s a new “war” declared on one thing or other that the news media pick up, run with and replay to death. “The War on ______________” (fill in the blank) is always on the socio-political menu somewhere, somehow in the United States, like a perpetual soup d’jour.

Scan the news and the Internet these days and you find no lack of such wars. A perennial favorite is The War on Drugs, which the U.S. government purports to be dutifully fighting (at the same time that U.S. government agencies are actively but covertly involved in the global drug trade). There’s also The War on Cancer, The War on the Common Cold, The War on Poverty, The War on Illiteracy, The War on Pornography — yes, even a “War on War” and a “War on Peace”. And of course, we all know by now about The War on Terror and the toll it has taken on the world.

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