THOSE WHO ARE NOT “WORKING press” may not be aware of one of the most important functions of the FCCJ: Foreign Press in Japan, or FPIJ. This is actually an independent organization, established in 1964, open to all accredited foreign media organizations in Japan (whether or not their correspondents are FCCJ Members). But the FCCJ runs the FPIJ secretariat, which has been chaired since 2011 by Justin McCurry of The Guardian.

The mandate of FPIJ is to “obtain the best possible news coverage facilities needed or requested by its members and to carry out all necessary acts for this purpose.” In practice, FPIJ functions “as a clearing house for information about press events, organizing press pools and lobbying on behalf of our members for fair access to media events.” This latter task has involved decades of continuous struggle.

I take this opportunity to spotlight Justin’s efforts (ably assisted by Kubo and Kobayashi of the FCCJ staff) because he has done a commendable job under difficult circumstances in getting us fair access to the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The mission last year was to establish that Tepco is duty-bound to offer media tours of the plant to foreign media, and not just members of the domestic kisha club that regularly covers the electric utility. In this respect, Justin says we owe a debt of gratitude to Nori Shikata, the former prime ministerial spokesman, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who went to bat for us with Tepco.

This year, thanks to Justin’s efforts to cultivate a cordial relationship with Tepco PR, in early March FPIJ members will get our second visit to Fukushima. But getting the trip was not the end of his struggle; there was still the question as to which of 24 “pen” journalists who applied could have the 12 places Tepco allotted. After a certain amount of hard feeling about who deserved to win a lottery for the seats, Justin reports:

“At least half a dozen people voluntarily withdrew their applications to give first-timers a better chance of being picked out of the hat. That demonstrates a certain esprit de corps, I think. In the end, though, Tepco agreed to take 16 writers.”

In addition to writers, the FPIJ contingent will include pool photographers and TV cameramen, who will provide B-roll from the plant to member media.

While I’m handing out kudos, one more for Justin. For many years there has been a certain estrangement between FPIJ and the South Korean correspondents in Japan. Recently, though, and due in large measure to Justin’s efforts, the entire 15 member South Korean media contingent joined FPIJ. Now, if he can just get them all to join the FCCJ.

— Georges Baumgartner