Earth Island Institute

ECO: The environmental voice at the IWC

ECO is published by Earth Island Institute’s International Marine Mammal Project at the meeting of the International Whaling Commission on behalf of environmental and animal welfare organizations around the globe.

For further information, please contact: Mark J. Palmer, Associate Director, Earth Island Institute, International Marine Mammal Project.

Previous volumes of ECO are available here.


Whaling in Japan: Media Maintains Status Quo

Volume LXII · Agadir, Morocco · No. 3 · Wednesday June 23, 2010
Acrobat .pdf of issue

ECO once again seeks out the quotes from Dr. Jun Morikawa’s fascinating new book, Whaling in Japan: Power, Politics and Diplomacy. Today’s lesson is the role of the Japanese media in maintaining the power of the Japan Fisheries Agency:

“While we have seen that the LDP, bureaucracy and industry interests are the main players in the formation of policy, the Japanese media also often play an important auxiliary role. This is particularly true of the whaling issue. The media make a considerable contribution to the maintenance of the status quo on the whaling issue in Japan in four main ways: pro-government reporting and dissemination of information; publicity for government-organized pro-whaling events; the virtual absence of any investigative reporting on whaling issues; and limited or slanted reporting of the activities of anti-whaling organizations, often described by the Fisheries Agency and the Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) as ‘eco-terrorists.’ The media repeatedly report this government claim without independent analysis and thus help propagate and validate this opinion among the public.

“The various reasons why the media choose to take this course include the general herd instinct of the Japanese media and the domestic press club system, in which reporters who cover various government ministries have offices inside the very ministries they have been assigned to cover. There have been numerous cases of press club reporters being ‘punished’ by the bureaucrats with denial of access when they write stories arousing the ire of ministry officials. Also relevant is that many top media executives are in their fifties and sixties and are of the generation that were fed whale in their youth. The tendency of Japanese newspapers to be ‘generalists’ appealing to all subscribers, rather than taking up controversial issues, and a desire not to provoke sponsors or face cuts in their advertising income also play a role.

“Coverage of whaling tends to be narrow in scope and mostly recycled from ICR and Ministry of Agriculture, Forests, and Fish press releases which naturally reinforce the view of Japan as the victim of aggressive anti-whaling groups and contribute to the continued isolation and diminished power of anti-whaling groups inside Japan … The Japanese media willingly presents whaling almost entirely as an issue of marine resources, focusing on Japan’s whale-eating culture and how the whaling industry is being threatened from abroad, rather than providing alternative business perspectives such as the lucrative potential for whale- and dolphin-watching tourism programmes.”