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  • Japan Times: Foreign reporters covering G8 face harassment: media group

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on July 2nd, 2008

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
    Hi Blog.  Article I forwarded you from Kimura-san at NikkanBeria.com, about Japan’s security forces zapping NJ media coming in for the Summit, has hit other media outlets. Here’s the Japan Times. Arudou Debito

    ————————–

    G8 COUNTDOWN

    Foreign reporters covering G8 face harassment: media group
    The Japan Times: Tuesday, July 1, 2008
    By JUN HONGO Staff writer

    Courtesy http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20080701a4.html

    When Chu Hoi Dick arrived at Narita International Airport last Thursday to cover events related to next week’s Group of Eight summit in Toyako, Hokkaido, he never imagined it would take nearly 20 hours to clear Immigration and set foot on Japanese soil.

    “We were taken to an Immigration facility to stay overnight,” Choi, a Hong Kong-based journalist from a small media outlet, told reporters Monday during a news conference in Tokyo. Choi, who has no criminal record, was not permitted to make any phone calls and was denied access to his personal belongings.

    Interrogated by Immigration officials, Choi was asked about his past involvement in demonstrations. At one point he was “threatened” by an official, who wanted him to pay $200 to stay overnight at the Immigration facility. He received no food until he paid for his own lunch the next day.

    When they released him Friday afternoon, Immigration officials “said thank you very much for your cooperation” but gave no explanation for the detainment, Choi said.

    The G8 Media Network, a Japan-based group of journalists from grassroots media outlets, said six people involved with its summit-related events have been wrongfully held and questioned by Immigration officials.

    The relentless grilling of journalists and political activists entering Japan constitutes a threat to freedom of expression, the group said.

    “This is suppression of freedom of thought and expression,” said Go Hirasawa, a representative of the group. “This is harassment (of journalists).”

    Another journalist who was detained for 11 hours after arriving in Tokyo on Friday said she was asked to hand over a detailed itinerary and account for every hour of her stay in Japan. She told The Japan Times that she has no criminal record that would justify the detainment.

    The journalist, who asked to remain anonymous, said that attempts by the government to censor journalists are “symptomatic of the G8,” as voices around the world are being silenced while a handful of nations maintain their authority over global issues.

    “Those of us who report the stories are silenced” as well, she said. The network of journalists condemned the detainment of so many reporters and activists as unreasonable, calling the practice “a violation of human rights.”

    The group said it filed a request with authorities including the Justice Ministry and the National Police Agency demanding that journalists from smaller media outlets be treated properly when arriving in Japan.

    ENDS

    6 Responses to “Japan Times: Foreign reporters covering G8 face harassment: media group”

    1. James N Says:

      Debito, Is it true that the U.K. spent less than ¥3,000,000,000 when they hosted the G8 Summit? If indeed it is, then how can Japan justify spending ¥60,000,000,000 for the same event? Half of which is being spent on “security”. Where is the public outcry for the blatant waste of the tax payers money? If you know of any expenditure statistics regarding how much other countries have spent in the past for this event, please pass it along. Thanks.

    2. Matt Says:

      I agree completely that freedom of expression is important and would never suggest that it is right for the Japanese government to place limitations on this.

      However, I am wondering if this “freedom of expression” argument is not a smokescreen that serves the ideological interests of anti-globalization activists.

      I googled the name name “Chu Hoi Dick” and found a website saying that he is a “freelance journalist”.

      http://hkdigit.blogspot.com/2007/08/chu-hoi-dick.html

      The same page also states that he is a “core” and “active” member of “Local Action”. Searching for the activities of the group, I could only find this in English:

      http://zonaeuropa.com/20070322_1.htm

      It appears that this group is a large civil rights organization in Hong Kong that has engaged in at least one large scale public demonstration.

      I think that the Japan Times statement that Mr. Chu belonged to a “small media outlet” is somewhat misleading. Not only should they mention the name of this outlet, but they also do not mention that he (appears to be) a political activist.

      To me, it sounds like the Japanese Immigration Office has a list of possible “dissidents” from abroad (read: activists) and Mr. Chu is on that list. Back in the 1990s when I was a university student, I worked for Canadian Immigration and I know for a fact that governments have lists of such people and give it to Immigration before these kind of large summits. And these were the days before the large-scale demonstrations of recent years. I am sure that governments share this information a lot these days.

      In the Japan Times piece, it sounds like Immigration is attempting to block Mr. Chu from entering Japan BECAUSE he is a Non-Japanese journalist. I would argue that, given his activist credentials, that Japan is attempting to keep him out because they fear that he will partake in actual demonstrations. To Japanese Immigration, he is an activist who also happens to be a journalist. I am not sure what Japanese laws are regarding the participation of foreigners in political demonstrations in Japan but I suspect that there may be limitations on such activities. If someone else knows, I would be interested to hear.

      I think that, right or wrong, Japan is more concerned with public order than freedom of expression. I honestly do not think that Immigration, of all departments, really cares what a few people write about the summit. If you are not an accredited journalist, you probably won’t be able to gain access to much information anyway. As an arm of the Ministry of Justice though, I am sure that Immigration does care what people do while in Japan. Images of foreigners being arrested following a demonstration that turned violent would lead to questions as to why these people were let in to the country in the first place. As the thinking of most bureaucrats goes, better to be safe than sorry.

      This may also explain the harassment of Debito and others ahead of the G8 summit. The government, as well as many citizens I am sure, is afraid of those scenes of hooded demonstrators clashing with police that accompany every large-scale meeting – from APEC all the way to the WTO. Of course, this image is largely a product of the media, but there are also a small minority of people who use these venues to engage in violent action against police.

      Various summits and meetings of global leaders have descended into chaos, with peaceful demonstrations being hijacked by violent anarchists and other anti-globalization protesters, a small minority of whom have willfully destroyed property and attacked police.

      I think that Japan is afraid of scenes like in Seattle back in 1999 and some of the violence that accompanies these kinds of summits.

      To prevent such things from happening, the strategy seems to be to keep ALL protesters out of Japan. Perhaps by stopping foreigners at airports as well, they hope to prevent groups from organizing. The “prevention of terrorism” argument may be partly true, but their targeting of “Western-looking” foreigners may be explained by their fear of protesters (of course, whether this is right or wrong is another issue).

      Unfortunately, in doing so, Japan is likely keeping out those who are peaceful and who may wish to work together with local Japanese groups, as well as those who are violent.

      One can agree or disagree with the policy of keeping anti-globalization protesters out of Japan but the negative media coverage of such demonstrations over the past few years, especially of those small minorities who turn violent, are probably of concern to Japanese authorities.

      I think that while framing these visa refusals as a “freedom of thought and expression” issue nicely serves the agenda of anti-globalization protesters, I also think that without mentioning that many of these “journalists” are also activists, is highly misleading.

    3. Joe Jones Says:

      The UK budget was more like 20 billion yen for security, and it isn’t the best comparison since the UK *was* actually attacked by terrorists while its security efforts were focused on the G8 summit site. This is probably the rationale for security ramp-ups in the Tokyo transit network.

    4. snowman Says:

      Well, all I can say is thank God Japan only holds this farce once every 8 years. And that Deito is around to report all the travesties!

    5. Christopher Says:

      “I would argue that, given his activist credentials, that Japan is attempting to keep him out because they fear that he will partake in actual demonstrations.”

      Good lord! Actual demonstrations?!

      Come on, this Japan, not North Korea. It is perfectly legal for foreigners to participate in demonstrations. And if it wasn’t legal, that would in itself be something to complain about.

    6. Matt Says:

      Article 5 of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act is very open to interpretation. Anyone claiming to be a political activist and who admits they are coming to participate in demonstrations in Japan could be denied entry based on this Article. I remember when I was a student in Japan in the late 1990s, we had a clause I think in our visa application where we had to promise not to engage in “political activities”. Again, I do not see anything in Japanese immigration law that would suggest that journalists could be kept out of the country merely because they are journalists. However, a “journalist” visa does require that a person be affiliated with a foreign news organization.

      The question of course, is whether protesters against the G8 can be defined as “likely to commit an act which could be detrimental to the interests or public security of Japan”.

      http://www.moj.go.jp/ENGLISH/information/icrr-03.html

      Article 5

      Any alien who falls under any one of the following items shall be denied permission for landing in Japan.

      (12) A person who organizes, or is a member of, or is closely affiliated with any of the following political parties or organizations:

      1. A political party or organization, which encourages acts of violence or the assault, killing, or injuring of officials of the Government or of local public entities for the reason of their being such officials. (NOT APPLICABLE OF COURSE)

      2. A political party or organization, which encourages illegal damage or destruction of public installations or facilities. (IF SOMEONE ADMITTED TO BEING A MEMBER OF AN ANARCHIST OR COMMUNIST GROUP WITH A RECORD OF CAUSING DAMAGE AT OTHER SUMMITS, I COULD SEE THIS BEING INVOKED)

      3. A political party or organization, which encourages acts of dispute such as stopping or preventing normal maintenance or operation of security equipment of a plant or place of work. (DIRECTED MORE AT LABOUR UNIONS PERHAPS)

      (13) A person who attempts to prepare, distribute, or display printed matters, motion pictures, or any other documents or drawings to attain the objectives of any political party or organization provided for in Item (11) or the preceding item. (I COULD SEE THIS BEING INVOKED IF SOMEONE CAME IN TO JAPAN BRANDISHING ANTI-G8 LITERATURE)

      (14) A person whom, other than those coming under the preceding items, the Minister of Justice has reasonable grounds to believe is likely to commit an act which could be detrimental to the interests or public security of Japan. (THIS IS VERY BROAD AND COULD MEAN ANYTHING REALLY. IT IS JUST A GET-OUT CLAUSE THAT ALLOWS IMMIGRATION OFFICERS TO USE THEIR DISCRETION IN ALLOWING PEOPLE INTO THE COUNTRY)

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