Senior Reconstruction Agency official tweets insulting remarks about meetings for the nuclear victims protection law
The original article is from “Mamarebo” blog, Article No.2 http://momsrevo.blogspot.de/2013/06/twitter.html
Written by Hideko Wada for Mamarebo, Edited and translated by WNSCR team
Senior Reconstruction Agency official Yasuhisa Mizuno, using a psuedonym, continuously posted derogatory messages on Twitter against people supporting the victims of the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident. His tweets included remarks such as "Those left-wing shitheads." He also made comments such as “Leaving everything opaque is one way to solve this,” about the execution of a crucial law for protecting nuclear victims, demonstrating his unwillingness to deal with it seriously. His bad-mouthing was revealed after Our Planet TV did some research about the anonymous tweeter. Unfortunately, it seems that everyone is chalking it up as just another bureaucrat in caught in a scandal.
(The video below is one of the meetings that citizens, sicientists, and officilas of the Recoonstruction Agency, including Mr. Mizuno, attended to discuss the health impact of low dose radiaions. )
Why? Major TV stations and newspapers in Japan have covered the case as a minor news, describing the situation as "A senior government official in charge nuclear victims assistance makes derogatory remarks…" Only a few media outlets managed to stress the seriousness of the sheer number of disparaging tweets coming from Mizuno, a senior government official.
An online discussion board that gathered Mizuno’s tweets elicited comments such as, "Either way, those shithead leftists are skunks," "I know now how tough it is to be a bureaucrat," and "I don't see what's wrong with his comments." These remarks are really disappointing, more so than Mizuno's original tweets. Surely the media’s dismissive attitude has led to an atmosphere that fosters such thoughtless comments.
I want consider the importance of Mizuno's position at the Reconstruction Agency, and the gravity of a person in such a position making a series of insulting comments in a public forum.
What is this law for assisting children and victims of nuclear accidents about?
Yasuhisa Mizuno was in charge of promoting a bill on a law for assisting children and victims of nuclear accidents, sponsored by a group of cross-party lawmakers and passed in the Diet on June 21, 2012.
What kind of legislation is this "assistance law"?
It is aimed mainly at protecting children and pregnant women, who are more vulnerable to radiation. The law states it will equally provide "assistance for living safely" to "people who choose to live in contaminated areas," "people who decide to move or evacuate," as well as "people who choose to return to their contaminated hometowns."
A groundbreaking feature of this law is that it clearly states the following:
1. Responsibility for the nuclear plant accident lies in the hands of the national government, which promoted nuclear power.
2. Since the effects of radiation are still scientifically unclear, the law takes the position of precautionary principle.
3. If a person becomes ill, the responsibility of establishing a causal relationship between the illness and radiation lies not in the hands of the victim but in the hands of the "national government.”
However, the law sets out “ideals,” for which it was agreed that specific measures would be decided after hearing the opinions of the victims. That is why, for the past year, many people--those who have evacuated to areas outside Fukushima, those who still live in Fukushima or other hot-spot areas while worrying about children's exposure, and those who support these victims--have been submitting countless demands to the Reconstruction Agency.
What are some of the demands?
One example is housing. People who had to flee for their lives after the nuclear plant exploded had to settle for government housing. In many cases, the environment has not been suitable for children, so many families that have previously put up with the situation now wish to move to another place. But if a family chooses to leave evacuation housing, they are no longer eligible for housing support. One mother with no choice but to remain in evacuation housing with her daughter said, “We are scared even to take a bath, so we turn out the lights and bathe in the dark so that no one can see us."
What's more, the housing stipend for people who have delayed evacuation was stopped at the end of last year. But considering that radiation exposure accumulates, it is not too late to evacuate, even now. In reality, there are many families that are waiting for the right timing for departure, such as when children start a new school, or when husbands find new jobs.
There are also many families in which the mother and children have evacuated, while the father stays behind in the contaminated area. The fathers commute long distances on weekends to see their wives and children—many have been doing this for more than two years now. There are fathers who have had accidents due to exhaustion from this lifestyle. These families need more support for transportation, but what's really urgent is to provide them with employment support and tax deductions for mortgages so that they can live together again under the same roof.
There are also many children who have remained in the contaminated area and have not gone outside even once since the accident. This is beginning to negatively impact their physical strength and emotional wellbeing. More importantly, there are not enough health checkups for these children.
The problems I have outlined represent just the tip of the iceberg. The law clearly states in writing that in order to draw up measures that fully reflect victims’ needs, it is necessary to (1) listen to their opinions, and (2) as a precautionary measure, to decide on the area subject to support and assistance.
What were Mizuno’s most important duties?
As a senior official of the Reconstruction Agency, he was the very person responsible for carefully listening to victims’ problems, and draw up concrete plans and a budget to solve them.
Now, I want you to recall Mizuno's tweets, which I mentioned here earlier.
After a meeting between the victims and supporters, Mizuno tweeted, "Those left-wing shitheads" and “Leaving everything opaque is one way to solve this.” I think everyone would agree that his absurd and insulting remarks indicate that he is definitely mocking the nuclear victims and supporters.
On June 14, after Mizuno's slanderous tweets became an issue, an emergency meeting was held at the Upper House members' building (picture below). I attended that meeting. It was sponsored by the group of legislators who helped establish and promote the law.
Another Reconstruction Agency official who attended the meeting apologized, saying Mizuno's comments were "inappropriate," and said that they removed him from the Fukushima support team. Mizuno was also suspended for one month and then transferred to a different government agency.
A member of the Upper House and secretary-general of the legislators group for promoting the law said:
"Mr. Mizuno had been on Twitter using his real name until last fall and everyone was aware of this. So wasn't there a kind of atmosphere that endorsed Mr. Mizuno's tweets?" She went on grilling the official, pointing out that "It's not only Mr. Mizuno's fault" that it's taking so long for the law to actually be executed, but it's due to "the same kind of attitudes pervasive in Reconstruction Agency and the entire government" that is causing the delay.
Furthermore, another Upper House member, Ryuhei Kawada, said,
"I helped set up this law for the sole purpose of not letting any child suffer from sickness as I did with AIDS caught from HIV-tainted blood. We need to move quickly to establish adequate medical care and health-check systems for children. This is not just a problem of Fukushima, but of all children who live areas afflicted with hot-spots in Kanto and other regions. We need to do this now before it's too late. I want everyone at the Reconstruction Agency to think seriously about what needs to be done now, instead of just dealing with what you have until your time is up."
Below are some of the other comments that left an impression on me.
- Mr. Mizuno's comments appear to represent the attitude of the Reconstruction Agency itself. On March 17, the agency presented a “victims’ assistance package” consisting of benefits entirely different from those requested by the victims themselves. The agency head, Mr. Nemoto, gave the excuse that "This package reflects everything expressed in the law." When we think about this along with Mr. Mizuno's disparaging tweets, I can't help but conclude that the Reconstruction Agency is trying to sabotage the law. If that's not the case, then they need to set some deadlines for action and draw up a budget.
(Kenichiro Kawasaki, co-representative of Save Fukushima Children Lawyer's Network (SAFLAN))
- “Over 60 local assemblies and organizations submitted letters containing specific requests from the victims that also asked the agency to execute the law as soon as possible. There are some requests that were finally approved after mothers visited city halls day after day. Please don't forget the fact that the hopes of so many people are behind all this and do not fail them."
(Emiko Ito, National Network of Parents to Protect Children from Radiation)
This derogatory tweet issue is not something that can be settled by punishing Mizuno alone. I would like for you to realize that there are other stories behind this.
Now, at this very moment, children are being exposed to radiation. People who have left as well as people who still live in the contaminated areas are all suffering. Please remember this as a fact and then think about the Twitter incident.
Written by Hideko Wada for Mamarebo
Edited and translated by WNSCR team