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Censored by Tokyo police yesterday during anti-nuke demo

Yesterday, while photographing a 5000 strong anti nuke demo in Tokyo, I was seized upon by police for photographing a sequestered group of extreme political activists. This happened on a busy public street one block from the headquarters of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the company responsible for Japan’s nuclear disaster. These were a small group of extremists, not part of the official demo parade, cordoned off on Sotobori Dori at Ginza 8-chome, across from where the parade route of the demonstration turned to pass in front of TEPCO.

Although there was no problem photographing the main demo rally and parade as it snaked through central Tokyo and past TEPCO, when I started photographing this other group, I was immediately told to stop making photographs and leave. I then showed my press ID and informed the police Japan abides by the free press rules of G7 members nations. I then continued photographing and it was then that 8-10 police officers formed a scrum around me, pushing me away and making it clear that if I continued I risked being arrested. I was then pushed and shoved back into the street making it impossible to take any further photos.

This was a first for me, being censored by police in a public place from reporting the news.

Has anyone heard of any other similar incidents in this new climate of nuclear sensitivity in Japan?

Thanks,

TB

by Torin Boyd at 2011-04-26 02:02:59 UTC | Bookmark | | Report spam→

24 Apr 2011 00:04
Without sounding rude.
This is nothing new and has nothing to do with the ‘new climate’ of nuclear sensitivity.
This is how the Japanese police usually behave.
They are taught to surround and intimidate you even when you haven’t done anything even when they are stopping you for a random street stop.
I’m sure I’ll get some shit for saying it, but Japan is really a police state (look into the powers of the police re: arrest and detention, recording of police interviews, injuries in custody etc the UN and Amnesty have plenty to say about it)

You were lucky not to get arrested.

Bottom line, despite your rights, don’t f%^k with the Japanese police because your press card and free press rules mean NOTHING to them.

by Adrian Storey - Uchujin | 26 Apr 2011 02:04 | Tokyo, Japan | | Report spam→
Hi Adrian,

Thanks for chiming in, I hear you about random pedestrian checks. But I have been shooting demos in Japan for over twenty years and know full well the boundaries of working around the police in these situations. I have never been harassed. The worst is being told to stay out of the street for my own safety from passing cars. No problem.

But this was different and a first time experience.

I feel this sort of press restrictions in Japan has the potential to increase in the name of public safety in regards to the nuclear issue. Much like in the US where privacy and press coverage has been hindered in the name of public security and terrorism threats. This will be especially important in regards to working in Fukushima Prefecture in the near future.

by Torin Boyd | 26 Apr 2011 03:04 | Toyko, Japan | | Report spam→
Torin,
sorry didn’t mean to sound patronising (if thats how I sounded?)
Didn’t realise you’d been shooting here so long I thought you were one of the thousands of photogs who turned up post quake, as you been here a lot longer than me I should probably shut up;-)
My experiences with the police here have been unpleasant at best.

Anyway maybe we can meet for a drink sometime.
PM me if you are interested.

Thanks

Adrian

by Adrian Storey - Uchujin | 27 Apr 2011 04:04 | Tokyo, Japan | | Report spam→
Torin,
I don’t think it’s got to do with the new situation. This kind of thing has happened to me in the past long before the Nuclear accident. While shooting a small scuffle between a security policeman and a Left wing demonstrator in Yoyogi park another security policeman came and tried to rip the camera out of my hands. And another time while shooting the right-wing a police officer made it clear that it was not allowed and moved on 2 other photographers and myself.

by Bruce Meyer | 27 Apr 2011 12:04 | Tokyo, Japan | | Report spam→
Torin! Long time, must catch up. If you can even remember me. Sorry to hear about the problems you had but this seems par for the course. The group you were photographing were probably Doro Chiba or Zengakuren student union and they usually have the police spooked as they are militant. Generally the police here do not suffer the left wing at all but these groups had links with the red army in the past and though most are old windbags who talk endlessly of revolution they are well past there storming the gates prime. Zengakuren on the other had are young and energetic and at another anti nuke demo on March 31st, three of their activists were arrested and worse still also one photographer, though I wasn’t there and cannot verify what if any causes there were and who the photographer was. Probably the photographer was an activist themselves, these groups usually have there own photographers working with them for left wing newspapers and the new sheets. Reports I have from the organizers say Tepco security personnel were directing the arrests by the police which is plausible though i always take what these groups say with a pinch of salt as they are equally good at misinformation to suit their own indignation.
Basically the police have never given these people a platform and since march 11th I feel the method of control has gotten harsher for everyone. Bruce and I have been stopped entering public parks where these sorts of demos take place and I am routinely filmed and recorded while working them. I have been corralled and even struck with a riot shield for photographing the police lining the route, I have been pushed around and intimidated by plain-clothed police and uniformed officers. I have even been forced to move by police when photographing the “acceptable communists” at election rallies with Shii Kazuo San, it was raining but the police would not let me stand under shelter. 30 minutes earlier at a new Komeito rally (right wing) i’d been free to do what I wanted it just seems there is a knee-jerk clamp down, preemptive bastardization mode to the police re the left.
With the nuclear issue globally embarrassing to the Japanese and the vested interests of the main parties in Tepco and visa-versa I cannot see the police being at all nice anytime soon. Militant lefties do not get public sympathy and can be mistreated but the police have been gentle on the more mainstream protests as the public mood is supportive. Still there is almost no coverage of protests in the japanese press and in the area of Fukushima itself. It will take a brave journalist to report, under the radar, from there in many senses. Not sure I’ve the balls myself but it is the story, it certainly is the story which is why the govt and its police are determined to make it impossible to get the story.
Damon

by Damon Coulter | 01 May 2011 01:05 | Tokyo, Japan | | Report spam→
JUst had a look at your photoshelter gallery of the event, don’t recognize many but some of those younger protestors are Zengakuren for sure.

by Damon Coulter | 01 May 2011 02:05 | Tokyo, Japan | | Report spam→
Perhaps those of you who are covering protests against the nuclear power plants in Japan might be interested in the following Japanese article.
http://www.asahi.com/digital/mediareport/TKY201105100181.html
Here is the result of Google Translation.
http://translate.google.com/translate?js=n&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&layout=2&eotf=1&sl=ja&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.asahi.com%2Fdigital%2Fmediareport%2FTKY201105100181.html&act=url

NHK is covereing the protests abroad, but apparently not in Japan.

by Tomoko Yamamoto | 10 May 2011 13:05 | Vienna, Austria | | Report spam→
Reminds me of the time I got dragged out of the LDP headquarters….by Japanese journalists yelling ‘gaijin dame!’ at me! You need to be a good passive reporter in Japan Torin!

by [former member] | 11 May 2011 04:05 | Seattle, United States | | Report spam→
Stuart,

Wow, that is an awful story about LDP. I don’t think that is the case anymore, but could be wrong. I’ve done lots of shooting at LDP headquarters in the past six years and have never encountered anything like that. Things have been opening up more in Nagatacho from the post LDP power vacum. This has alot to do with the persistance of the Foreign Press in Japan (FPJ) who have been pushing back barriers. They’ve made some great strides in regards to pen access, but photo access is still lagging. I really think that is because the photo arm of the FPJ is comfortably numb, ie the wires who already have access. This can be changed, but in reality, general news of Japanese government is only of interest for photo projects or specific stories.

But that is official press confereneces, and not street shooting. Again about the FPJ, they are very sympathetic and angered about my treatment by the Tokyo Metro Police dept. They have offered to make an official complaint which will be be done soon.

Damon, thanks for your very insightful replies. You seem much more versed in all of this than me. Are you a member of the FPJ? If you are, why not let’s combine our complaints?

Thanks & best,

Torin

by Torin Boyd | 23 May 2011 14:05 (ed. May 23 2011) | Toyko, Japan | | Report spam→
I just saw an article in English on the NYT about the Japanese nuclear power plant politics.
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/31/world/asia/31japan.html?_r=1&ref=global-home
I had read about the condition in which those towns accepted the construction of the nuclear power plant on www.asahi.com, but there was no corresponding English article. The article on asahi.com was not an investigative piece, but it was a report on how the town council meeting in exile took place and went and it mentioned that the largess the town (in which the Fukushima plant is located) had enjoyed by accepting the power plant.

I know that the Japanese is not an easy language to learn, but I hope those who are there on a long term basis will learn to read the paper in Japanese. Understanding the news on TV will never give you a hint of what is going on behind the scene.

by Tomoko Yamamoto | 31 May 2011 07:05 (ed. May 31 2011) | Vienna, Austria | | Report spam→

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Participants

Torin Boyd, photojournalist Torin Boyd
photojournalist
(Torin)
Toyko , Japan ( NRT )
Adrian Storey - Uchujin, Photographer/Film maker Adrian Storey - Uchujin
Photographer/Film maker
Tokyo , Japan
Bruce Meyer, Photog/teacher Bruce Meyer
Photog/teacher
Tokyo , Japan
Damon Coulter, Freelance photographer Damon Coulter
Freelance photographer
Tokyo , Japan
Tomoko Yamamoto, Multimedia Artist Tomoko Yamamoto
Multimedia Artist
Vienna , Austria ( VIE )


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