For Democracy’s Sake, Reform the Okinawa Media

Robert D. Eldridge, Ph.D.

In the first essay entitled, “The Media Situation in Okinawa,” I discussed the closed environment in Okinawa that permits the local media to exist with fear of economic competition or alternative views. I stated that this situation where there was a strong media bias and a lack of outside information, was “abnormal” and “unhealthy.”

I ended the first essay by noting that the “out of control” media in Okinawa is failing to serve as an important “fourth pillar” in society, which is essential for a democracy to exist. Namely, the media acts as the “fourth estate,” serving as a check on government.

This is a concept used in recent centuries. Specifically, while the three branches of government serve as a check on each other, the media serves as a check on government, hopefully on behalf of the public. It pushes the government to be ever more transparent in its decision-making, its leaders more responsible, and its system more responsive to society’s needs.

This was such an important concept that Thomas Jefferson, one of the greatest democratic thinkers and a man most noted for his authorship of the American Declaration of Independence, is also well known for his 1787 quote, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
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that the media will constantly live up to its lofty goals and serve our common wishes and universal concerns and not parochial or vested interests as such it is only to be expected that the media be also under the same degree or level of scrutiny that other actors in society such as the government finds itself under.

Unfortunately we find today a situation in which the media refuses in some cases to allow itself to be placed under any type of transparency and continues to write and report untruths and incorrect facts, reported in a biased manner, often with politically driven agendas. This is especially true in Okinawa.

I recently spoke with writers with the Mainichi Shimbun and Kyodo News Agency. Both reported that their companies are pressured by the media in Okinawa to report more about Okinawa and more in line with their own reporting. For example, the Ryukyu Shimpo has a cooperation agreement with the Mainichi, and leverages that relationship. In addition, the Shimpo and the Okinawa Taimusu are customers of Kyodo and use that relationship to force Kyodo to cover Okinawa in their image. I told them they need to publicly speak out on this pressure, or else the truth about the so-called “Okinawa Problem” will never be told. Namely, that much of the “Okinawa Problem” is the product of half-truths, biased reporting, and exaggeration, and one can even argue that the “Okinawa Problem” itself does not even exist. The “victims” are now the oppressors.

It is actions like these that led the same Thomas Jefferson, who knew the press—at that time newspapers and pamphlets—could also be highly irresponsible and warned, “The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.” While we still need the media for its depth and breadth of information, we also need to be aware of the excesses and irresponsibility that this same press occasionally (or in some cases, regularly) demonstrates.

In the case of the former, for example, the Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association adopted the Canon of Journalism on June 21, 2000, stressing that “Reporting must be accurate and fair, and should never be swayed by the reporter’s personal conviction or bias.” Based on the reporting I have seen to date, many in the media are not living up to these provisions. This situation is especially true in Okinawa.Wholesale nike Cheap jerseys online With Fast Free Shipping online. And thus, as part of the readership and a representative of one of the many actors in civil society in Japan, it is incumbent on us to report these problems.

Because the media is made up of imperfect human beings, is one of the many actors in societies made up of competing ideas, ideologies, and commercial or other interests, and can only at best have an incomplete knowledge of what is going on throughout the world, the media—whether it be television, radio, newspapers, or other forms found on the Internet, social media or cable—will inherently be inadequate and incomplete. Nevertheless, it is incumbent on the media to constantly seek to improve itself internally and incumbent on the readers and the other actors in society about whom the media reports to watch externally the media to get it to correct itself when self-reform does not work.

Eldridge was born in New Jersey, U.S.A., in 1968, and graduated from the Department of International Relations, Lynchburg College, Virginia. He earned his doctorate from Kobe University Graduate School of Law in 1999. From 2001-2009, he was a tenured associate professor at Osaka University’s Graduate School, and from 2009-2015, served as the deputy assistant chief of staff, G-7 (Government and External Relations), Marine Corps Installations Pacific in Okinawa. During this time, he was one of the proposers of Operation Tomodachi at the time of the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. He is the author of numerous works including The Origins of the Bilateral Okinawa Problem (2003) and The Origins of U.S. Policy in the East China Sea Islands Dispute (2014).