|Industrial Pollution in Japan (UNU, 1992, 187 pages)|
The mass media played a tremendous role in focusing national attention on the problems of pollution and in creating an enlightened public opinion. But the mass media in Japan are supported by private capital and industrial wealth, or otherwise are under government control in terms of the licensing of broadcast systems and manipulative interference in journalists' organizations. In this situation the maintenance of journalistic integrity is very difficult indeed. In spite of this, individual journalists were able to provide relatively unbiased reports on the problems of environmental destruction, while citizens' movements made every effort to bring journalists into their activities. People thought that the problems of pollution were only local issues, but in fact each problem had a counterpart in several other areas of the country. Under the influence of the media, the anti-pollution movements were supported by the public and efforts became national in scope. The government and industrial circles are fully aware of the power of the mass media and as a result there were various pressures exerted to circumscribe freedom of speech and expression. But in spite of these efforts to suppress the truth, the facts became generally known. Even before the beginning of the Second World War, when freedom of expression was strictly limited, journalists played a very important role in focusing public attention on the Ashio copper-mine problem. In the post-war period up to the 1960s, the mass media were not able to give full and continued attention to problems of the human environment. But in the late 1960s citizens' movements became more fully aware of the power of the media, and were able to make use of it through various forms of co-operation.
Determined not to rely totally on mass media outlets, the pollution victims and their supporters created their own unique methods of informing the public, and were able to make themselves heard nationwide. In the case of the Minamata disease, individual journalists made anonymous connections with victims' networks. The cost of maintaining a private non-profit news system is not small, but news about the Minamata disease situation had continued to be provided periodically; this activity is a form of moral support for the victims of the disease, as well as for the related support movements. There are also other support organizations besides those generated by the Minamata situation, and these groups form networks of communication for mutual support and information.
The most underdeveloped aspect of the communication media is related to the problem of international communication. Since Japan is an island nation, the problems of linguistic and cultural isolation are both great and inevitable. As a result, attempts to share the experiences of Japan in the environmental arena with other nations and peoples are out of proportion to the magnitude of Japan's environmental destruction. Japanese understanding of international environmental issues is also extremely limited. A good example of this is the media distortions generated in relation to the worldwide anti-whaling movement. The Japanese media tend to divide news artificially into domestic and international segments. This reflects the geographical and historical isolation that Japan continues to foster, as well as a slightly masked but significant degree of nascent nationalism in news reporting. However, with the increased internationalization of Japan's economy, as well as its sheer size, it is essential that anti-pollution movements become more effective in communicating on an international level. In order that Japan may avoid the pitfalls of self-righteousness, it is urgent that anti-pollution movements co-operate with their counterparts in other countries so as to strengthen fellowship and interaction on a worldwide scale.