Japan lawyers’ federation demands gov’t cease online monitoring

08/01/2011
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TOKYO (majirox news) — The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (Nichibenren) has demanded that the government immediately stop monitoring online information about nuclear power.

Nichibenren issued the request on July 29, citing that the government has allocated 830 million yen ($10.68 million) to examine such social networking sources as blogs and Twitter for nuclear power information.

The government has monitored newspapers and television for nuclear information for the past three years but has never spent as much money as it is at present, the federation said.

Government officials have denied allegations of censorship, yet it awarded an advertising agency a contract “to monitor blogs on nuclear power and radiation issues as well as Twitter accounts around the clock.”

The agency must “conduct research and analysis on incorrect and inappropriate information that would lead to false rumors and to report such Internet accounts” to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy.

The advertising agency must also “publish correct information in question-and-answer format on the agency’s website and Twitter account, after consulting with experts and engineers if necessary,” according to the terms of the agency’s contract.

Yet according to Nichibenren, “There is no established scientific evaluation of information related to how nuclear power generation or radioactive items harm the health, so it’s unclear what constitutes ‘incorrect information.’ If the government uses this process to criticize information, it stifles whoever is transmitting the information and risks violating freedom of expression granted under Article 21 of the Constitution.”

Nichibenren accused the government of trying to manipulate public opinion through the monitoring.

“Information the government considers correct limits information different from that being transmitted, limits citizens’ right to know, shapes public opinion regarding nuclear power and is a significant problem that shakes the foundations of a democratic society,” Nichibenren said.

Nichibenren went on to blast the government for its handling of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident stemming from the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent scandals involving electric power companies across Japan. The federation criticized the following:
 Not disclosing radiation dissipation forecasts after the Fukushima accident;
 Continuing to withhold information about the state of the reactor;
 Concealing the fact that meltdowns had occurred at the plant; and
 Not providing sufficient grounds for changing safe threshold values for radiation’s effects on human health.

Nichibenren also blasted power companies for setting up public meetings or the media about nuclear power to gain favorable results citing Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s exhortation to staff to vote in favor of nuclear power on a television program and Chubu Electric Power Co. arranging to be asked questions whose answers would put the company in a good light.

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