Here’s this week’s Media Mix about the government’s proposed revision to the immigration law. As pointed out by attorney Shoichi Ibusuki and Eri Ishikawa, who works for an organization that provides support for refugees in Japan, during the discussion of the matter on the TBS radio show “Session,” much of the immigration agency’s work with regard to asylum-seekers is to dehumanize them so that they can’t possibly get a purchase on the public’s sympathies. Ibusuki mentions how the mass media learned about the revision through a justice ministry “lecture,” meaning there was no question-and-answer session. The government told the reporters only as much as they wanted them to know and then the reporters, for the most part, regurgitated this information verbatim. Asahi Shimbun at least had the wherewithal to look at the bill more carefully and betrayed some doubts as to just how much it would solve the problem of indefinite detention, but it was in the context of an editorial, meaning anyone who read it might think that the Asahi itself had an agenda. During the discussion, Ibusuki could barely contain his anger, which was aimed as much at the media as it was at the government.
And one of the ways the media conspires with the government in this way is not to humanize the issue. These are real people we’re talking about, people whose lives might be in danger, so the issue of “Why did they choose Japan in the first place?” is sort of beside the point. They are here now and if the authorities willfully choose to ignore the situations these people fled then they can’t rightfully claim to be members of that subset of countries who says it respects human rights above all else. In that light, I fell victim to this same pattern of neglect by calling the person who basically sparked the revision “the Nigerian man [who] died in Nagasaki Prefecture after going on a hunger strike to protest his confinement,” rather than his name, which is Gerald Okafor, though many people called him “Sunny.” You can read his story in Dreux Richard’s new book, Every Human Intention. Sunny was not a refugee, but the media’s tacit agreement to not name him is the same tactic the government uses to make asylum seekers disappear.