MY TWO CONSECUTIVE YEARS as FCCJ president have come to a close, and this will be my last message. While the challenges have been overwhelming at times, I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have served the Club as president. It has been a tremendous learning experience on all levels. Best of all, I’ve been privileged to oversee historical transitions and influential initiatives.
At the top of the list is our change to koeki shadan hojin (Public Interest Incorporated Association) NPO status in April 2014, when I was able to oversee its implementation. A vast majority of the membership voted for this status at several GMMs. I still agree with the majority’s decision. This was, and is, the best choice for the Club both financially and culturally, as an organization that prides itself on offering educational, newsworthy events that inform the public from an unbiased platform.
Yes, mistakes were made during the very complicated changeover process. The result was three lawsuits, two of which remain unresolved. Particularly vexing is the “Validity of GMM Resolutions Case” which many of us have dubbed the “Former Presidents’ Case.” Filed by 10 members on Aug. 24, 2012, the case is nearing its third year, and has been costing the Club millions of yen in legal fees and inestimable hours of staff and board members’ time. One wonders why these senior members do not drop their Don Quixote-esque quest and become Club leaders who help guide us through the growing thicket of media self-censorship and government backed clampdowns. Their wise leadership is sorely needed.
The upcoming Club move is a historical transition in the making. For me, it has been very exciting to be a part of this project, and actually sign the initial agreements with Mitsubishi Estate Company. With their generous support, the process is moving along as planned. I’m looking forward to the next all-important phase involving interior layout and design.
Memorable initiatives over the past two years include our protest statement against the proposed State Secrets Bill in November 2013. Media outlets quickly followed our lead. While the bill was unfortunately passed, our moxie cemented the Club’s time-honored tradition of advocating freedom of the press and the people’s “right to know.”
On this note, our Freedom of the Press Awards project last month was a big success. The FoP Committee learned much through the process and will apply those lessons to improve next year’s awards. The judges were exceptionally patient, and one viewed with much bemusement a so called investigative “story” on alleged dirty dealings of the Club by an FCCJ member. (After learning his “story” was not a winner, the member threatened to disrupt the award ceremony with claims that the process was rigged.) But the real winners are certainly deserving. It was a great honor to celebrate those brave investigative journalists who risk so much.
Increasing membership has also been at the top of the list, with a variety of initiatives including the popular monthly Asakai, a steady stream of entertainment and gourmet gatherings and the recent “Meet the Press” talks, among so many others.
Strangely, amidst all this effort to attract members, qualification for Regular membership and media affiliation became a disturbing issue last month: the rallying cry to vilify a particular board member. It smacked of McCarthyism and sadly reached both the Japanese and English language press via certain members who regularly wield personal attacks and damage the Club.
It is clear that the Club needs to adapt its rules to cover the changing roles of journalists. These days, few are full time correspondents with one media company. Many work on a stringer basis and their affiliations can shift frequently. I will be forming a fresh new Membership Committee to look at this and other membership issues realistically, responsibly and with impartiality.
In this 28th year of my FCCJ membership, I look forward to continuing to serve the Club and deepening the many friendships I’ve made among you.