LAST MONTH’S CHARLIE HEBDO slayings and the murder of the Japanese journalist Kenji Goto by Islamic State spotlighted again the increasing deadly risks facing journalists today.
These horrific tragedies, still unfolding, clearly demonstrate the need for greater protection of journalists as the vital messengers of our times. Throughout history, “killing the messenger” has held serious consequences. It was an act of treason to kill a messenger (town crier) in old England. In China during the Warring States period, chivalry and virtue prevented the execution of messengers from an enemy camp.
Media organizations in Japan as well as the government must establish effective safety protocols and protection for reporters – full-time staff and contracted freelancers – on the frontlines or those facing threats at home. The UN General Assembly’s proposed new resolution on the safety of journalists (likely to be approved this month) is a stronger step in the right direction, but more needs to be done to combat the killing of journalists with impunity.
The FCCJ will continue to play an important role in supporting journalists – foreign and Japanese – during story coverage on all fronts. Our remarkable Jan. 22 and 23 urgent press conferences on the Islamic State hostage crisis proved this true. Among the four who spoke was Kenji Goto’s mother, Junko Ishido. It was an historical moment as the world watched her tearful plea to Islamic State to save her son’s life, and convey the importance of his journalistic work.
After the Charlie Hebdo tragedy, the FCCJ collaborated with its sister organization, the FPIJ (Foreign Press in Japan), on Jan. 9 to organize a letter of solidarity in French, English and Japanese. Thanks to FPIJ chair Richard Lloyd Parry (the Times) and Regis Arnaud (Le Figaro), we were able to gather more than 80 signatures of support in less than five hours. The letter was handed to French Ambassador Thierry Dana that evening during a small ceremony covered by international and Japanese press.
We are also hoping to collaborate with the Japan PEN Club sometime soon on Book Breaks featuring fiction and nonfiction works in Japanese. So far, we’ve only featured works in English. Coincidentally, the Club’s January Book Break offered prescient historical insights on Prime Minister Abe’s recent counter-terrorism diplomacy forays in the Middle East. Author and FCCJ Board Member Michael Penn spoke about his impressive tome, Japan and the War on Terror.
Topping off January’s intense activity was thankfully lighter fare on the 23rd – our annual Hacks & Flacks New Year Party. Over 250 PR flacks and journalist hacks came to schmooze, exchange meishi, and enjoy the food and drink. Endless thanks to our media-event staff, Chung-san and Saikawa-san, for their herculean efforts to organize the shinnenkai along with a non-stop lineup of demanding PAC events.
Lastly, please keep your eyes peeled for FCCJ notices in the coming months about important events you shouldn’t miss. This includes the General Membership Meeting (GMM) on Thursday, March 5 – when we will vote on the FY2015-2016 budget.
Wishing you a flu-free February full of Valentine admirers.