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Thursday, June 02, 2005

Japan's heroic hostage

Aljazeera keeps up its good reporting on East Asia with a piece from a few days ago by Gavin Blair on the Japanese hostage Akihiko Saito, who was recently found dead in Iraq.

The reporter points up the glaring difference between his glorification in the Japanese media and the vilification of the three hostages who returned to Japan unharmed last year. Akihiko Saito was a private security officer [read: mercenary] whereas the 2004 hostages were NGO workers and a photojournalist. Sort that one out.

As I've mentioned before, Asano Kenichi of Doshisha University called the treatment of the three 2004 hostages a 'media bludgeoning'. Something of a contrast with the latest hostage who was working for a British security firm and was a veteran of the Foreign Legion. Nonetheless, the Japanese media found this far more acceptable:
...the media has been keen to establish the distinction between professionals such as Saito or the SDF, and "misguided do-gooders" such as the three taken hostage last year.

The Sankei newspaper, in an editorial about Saito, said: "This is very different from previous abduction cases as Mr Saito is a trained professional with much experience."

To be honest, Aljazeera might be part of the mainstream media, but its English website is providing some of the sort of journalism that we should be hoping for from the non-mainstream media. Journalism that is questioning, rigourous but not afraid to be partisan (of course the mainstream media is partisan it just tries to pretend it's not by hiding behind the ideology of 'balance').


At June 09, 2005 5:12 PM, Blogger matt said...

I found an example of the 'bludgeoning' the 3 activists received, which would be funny if it wasn't so vile. The title alone gives it all away: "Drug addict and leftists". I like the repetition of "is said to be" as well. Journalism at its best.

I remember seeing comments by people at the time saying 'they deserve to die', but then flipping out when those 4 mercen...ahem, 'civilian contractors', were killed in Fallujah. Like those who support cutting arts programs from schools and universities and replacing them with business programs, many people will applaud the pursuit of money and sneer at the pursuit of ideals.

At June 10, 2005 5:02 PM, Blogger kotaji said...

Thanks for the link. Quite an amazing article really. I'd almost believe it was a spoof character assassination if it weren't for the fact that it's obviously for real and bizarrely, published in a Taiwanese newspaper.

Seems slightly ironic in a way that associations with the Japanese Communist Party are used as a slur against one of the hostages, considering that the party is now a very mainstream centre-left party (actually even that may be a slight exaggeration). It did oppose the sending of troops to Iraq, but that makes it a bit like using a British person's association with the Liberal Democrats (who opposed the Iraq War) as some sort of horrific slur on their name. Perhaps says something about the 'Neocon' atmosphere currently developing in Japan.


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