Mako Oshidori, a Japanese comedienne and a freelance journalist, was part of the press conference on March 6, 2014. The Ustream video in Japanese can be found here, and her presentation begins around 5 minutes and 20 seconds into it. The press conference was attended by multiple German media outlets. This German article covered the content of her presentation well.
Mako Oshidori was enrolled in the School of Life Sciences at Tottori University Faculty of Medicine for three years, studying basics of medical research, before leaving school to go into comedy. Mako Oshidori is a regular at the TEPCO press conference, known for her sharp and tenacious questions. Mako Oshidori herself discovered a TEPCO memo telling officials to "cut Mako-chan('s question) short appropriately." As a freelance journalist, she covers not only the Fukushima nuclear accident but other important health issues such as Minamata disease and asbestos. Although she considers nuclear power plants unnecessary for Earth, she doesn't consider herself an anti-nuclear activist. She is simply a journalist investigating various health issues including the radiation exposure issues.
"Stunning Story from a Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Worker" is an example of her investigative report translated into English.
The transcript of her presentation has been translated into English below.
My name is Mako Oshidori. I am sorry I speak in Japanese.
I would like to express my gratitude to the IPPNW, the Protestant church, and people in Germany, for giving me this opportunity to speak here today. This means a lot as there are not many opportunities given within Japan to widely publicize issues regarding the current situation in regards to the nuclear accident. Therefore, I was really surprised to discover, on this trip to Europe, that Europeans consider Japan as a free, democratic country.
As a journalist, I have attended the TEPCO press conferences more than anybody. I am considered a veteran journalist despite my younger age. The pressure is placed on me from different sources when I try to disseminate the information in media.
If I write one article about the nuclear accident for a magazine, the utilities industry group would demand to have pro-nuclear articles to be published in the same magazine three times. At the end, the magazine ended up not publishing my article. There was also the pressure from sponsors not to let me use the words such as a “nuclear accident” and “Tokyo Electric (TEPCO)” at all on television, when I would talk about the TEPCO nuclear accident. As a result, I was not able to go on television.
Japanese electric companies like to use nuclear power, and it was when the Japanese government decided to restart nuclear power plants, in order to continue using nuclear power last fall, that the government agents began following me for surveillance. I heard about it from researchers who were my friends as well as some government officials. I will show you a photo I secretly took of the agent, so you know what sort of surveillance I mean.
When I would talk to someone, a surveillance agent from the central government’s public police force would come very close, trying to eavesdrop on the conversation. The person I am talking to would ask me if the man was my manager. I would tell them that I had no idea who the man was and that I thought he was perhaps one of my groupies. Thus we are not given freedom of broadcasting whatever we want. There are some journalists belonging to major media outlets who do serious reporting on the nuclear accident, but they are under such pressure that the Japanese people are not informed of the realities of the nuclear accident even within Japan.
Next, I would like to talk a little about my interview of a nurse who used to work at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (NPP) after the accident.
I would like to tell you about the realities of the nuclear power plant workers. He was a nurse at Fukushima Daiichi NPP in 2012. He quit his job with TEPCO in 2013, and that’s when I interviewed him.
As of now, there are multiple NPP workers who have died, but only the ones who died on the job are reported publicly. Some of them have died suddenly while off work, for instance, during the weekend or in their sleep, but none of their deaths are reported. Not only that, they are not included in the worker death count. For example, there are some workers who quit the job after a lot of radiation exposure, such as 50, 60 to 70 mSv, and end up dying a month later, but none of these deaths are either reported, or included in the death toll. This is the reality of the NPP workers. There is too much pressure for me to write an article on this issue, so not many Japanese people know about it.
Next, I would like to briefly talk about when I interviewed some Fukushima mothers.
They collect signatures for a petition appealing to the local government not to use foods produced in Fukushima in school lunches for their children. Currently, not many people are purchasing Fukushima produce for fear of radiation contamination. So the policy was established to feed it to children first to appeal the safety of the food. In Fukushima Prefecture, 70% of the areas was originally using Fukushima produce in school lunches prior to the accident. Even in the areas which were not using Fukushima produce before the accident, the policy now is to feed it to children in order to appeal to the public how safe the Fukushima produce is. The mothers are opposed to it and want to have officials use food from uncontaminated areas in school lunches. There are various arguments in regards to this, such as a need for measuring the radiation levels of food, but their claim is that it is wrong to take advantage of children in appealing the safety of food.
This is from when I visited Fukushima Prefecture in 2012 with a Belarusian researcher, Alexey Nesterenko, who is the head of BELRAD.
He was most surprised about an elementary school in Date City, Fukushima Prefecture. As you can see, in the section right by the fence next to the swimming pool, the radiation monitor is registering 27.6 μSv/h.
He asked me if the children at the school had evacuated, and I told him they were in class right then. He was extremely astonished and said that was the radiation level which would necessitate immediate, mandatory evacuation of the children in Belarus. He said he thought Japan was a wealthy country and wondered why children were in class there as if nothing ever happened. This area has an especially high radiation level. There are hot spots like this in Fukushima.
Next thing I would like to talk about is the health survey in Fukushima Prefecture. This is from when Fukushima Prefecture and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an organization which promotes peaceful use of nuclear energy, signed an agreement of cooperation in health survey and other information relating to the nuclear accident. It covered cooperation in the health survey and the decontamination effort.
The agreement by IAEA and Fukushima Prefecture is a problem, but there is another problematic document. This is a document which was released in May 2011 by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology to universities, academic societies and research institutions all over Japan. I am really sorry this is only available in Japanese.
This documents is in regards to various research such as health studies carried out in the disaster areas and the contaminated areas after the Great East Japan earthquake, and it basically says detailed study should not be done without permission for the reason of avoiding burden on the residents. Before this document was released in May 2011, various university researchers and research institutions were in Iitate Village and other heavily contaminated areas in Fukushima Prefecture in March and April. Many research teams left Fukushima after this document was released. Currently, a large-scale health survey in Japan is being conducted only at Fukushima Medical University, designated by the Japanese government. Other studies are hardly being conducted now.
Lastly, I would like to talk about the Act on Protection of Specified Secrets. Last December, the Diet passed the law called the Act on Protection of Specified Secrets, which actually has numerous issues. The government explains the law mostly concerns Specified Secrets about terrorism, but indeed it would punish not only government officials and national researchers who leak Specified Secrets designated by the government but also individuals who instigated the leak. The issue about this act is that it has not at all been decided what constitutes Specified Secrets or what kind of punishments will be applied to those who leak them. The details are to be determined over the course of this year: The only thing determined is that those who leak whatever is considered Specified Secrets, which is undecided at this point, would be punished. As you can see here, the nuclear accident isn’t the only thing that is bringing people out to a demonstration. This is a photo of the demonstration by the Japanese citizens against what-was-then the Specified Secrets Protection bill.
That prompted many demonstrations claiming the current cabinet was extremely problematic.
As you can see, you can’t say democracy is protected and human rights are respected in current Japan, and there will be pressure placed on you if you try to broadcast it. Therefore, I really feel thankful for this opportunity to speak to all of you in Germany, courtesy of IPPNW.
Transcription by Takashi Mizuno
Translation by @YuriHiranuma