Foreign journalists in Japan are “propagating misinformation” about Fukushima
In March 2011, Paul Blustein was one of the notable few foreign journalists in Japan who didn’t give in to the trend of writing scare stories about the Fukushima nuclear accident. One of his most notable pieces was an Op-Ed for the Washington Post that sensibly defended his decision not to flee the country.
In the years since, he has written other informative pieces about Fukushima. If anyone hasn’t read his September 2013 article on “Fukushima’s Worst-Case Scenarios,” please check it out before reading the rest of this post. It’s a great contribution to the fight against sensationalism and fearmongering.
In an article published today by the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Japan, Blustein denounces reporters who continue to parrot claims that have long been shown to lack credibility. Foremost among them is former Prime Minister Kan’s statements about how he thought Tokyo was in danger, which were little more than a non-expert’s fearful reaction to a situation that he didn’t fully understand, but are nonetheless still paraded around as proof that Tokyo just barely survived.
The latest iteration of this storyline is an Al Jazeera broadcast describing Fukushima as “the disaster that could have turned Tokyo into a ghost town.” The report features former Prime Minister Naoto Kan recounting how experts told him that a severe deterioration of conditions at Fukushima Dai-ichi would necessitate the evacuation of all 50 million people living within 250 kilometers of the plant.
Captivating as this storyline may be, it is massively at odds with the facts. Propagating it is not just misinformation; it can now be fairly deemed an act of journalistic malpractice. And FCCJ members are prominent among the guilty.
The FCCJ printed rebuttals from two journalists who could probably be considered among the most famous foreign reporters in Japan. The first in Martin Fackler of the New York Times, whose “quality” writing about the Fukushima disaster earned a prize from an organization funded by major oil companies. The second is David McNeill, a journalist who helped with the Al-Jazeera program that made the “ghost town” claim about Tokyo. Both rebbutals are, quite frankly, weak. They mention the existence of some American officials who overreacted, as if it makes any American source questionable. They are both dismissive of the idea that actual scientists and experts on radiation are a far more trustworthy source than a politician who was under immense pressure and was largely ignorant of nuclear matters. McNeill even presents a scary quote from Niigata Governor Hirohiko Izumida, as if adding another politician’s statements will somehow override the conclusions of scientists.