where the reporters get to ask questions to TEPCO and the relevant government ministries and agencies that deal with the accident, all in one room. The joint press conference, which has at least helped keep some politicians and bureaucrats honest or hold them accountable, is not only over for the month of December but over for good.
Why? Because the accident is declared by the prime minister of Japan to have been over, and the members of the Press Club has had enough, according to Ryusaku Tanaka, an independent journalist who's been covering the Fukushima accident from the beginning.
From the blog of Ryusaku Tanaka (12/16/2011):
There was a remark from Minister Hosono which was more chilling than the declaration of cold shutdown. He said, "Today (December 16) is the last day of the government/TEPCO joint press conference."
The government and TEPCO were going to use the baseless "cold shutdown declaration" to mark the end of the accident, and discontinue the joint press conference to signal the end.
"To stop the joint press conference is to harm the right of the citizens to know. TEPCO is allowed to lie, is not held responsible. But the politicians, if they answer the questions from the reporters in an irresponsible way, they will damage their reputation and the success in the next election may be jeopedized. Is it possible for you to continue the joint press conference?" I asked.
Minister Hosono said something to the effect that "TEPCO has changed significantly (disclosing more information)". One common trait of many politicians is to defend TEPCO at all cost.
Minister Hosono cited the reason to discontinue the joint press conference as "people in the mass media have suggested to us that it may be time to discontinue". "Who are the people in the media? Newspapers? TV? Or are you talking about the Press Club?" Hosono replied, "I cannot say, because of the trust between the media and us." Talk about letting the cat out of the bag. The discontinuation of the joint press conference was proposed by the Press Club. There is no way that freelance journalists would suggest such a thing. Besides, you wouldn't call freelance journalists the mass media.
After I almost had a brain freeze on the announcement of the discontinuation of the joint press conference, an incident took place that got my blood boiling with anger. It was 1 hour 15 minutes into the press conference. Minister Hosono left the room in the middle of the conference. Then President Toshio Nishizawa [of TEPCO] immediately left the room.
"You [fill in the expletive of your choice, readers]". Anger swelled inside me. "Why is President Nishizawa is leaving?" I asked. The room was immediately filled with commotion, as freelance journalists started to press hard on the irresponsible Nishizawa. "Why is the highest ranking executive [of TEPCO] leaving before everyone?" President Nishizawa's action was the epitome of the attitude of TEPCO toward the nuclear accident.
It turned out Minister Hosono left the press conference in progress in order to appear on "NHK News 9". According to Takashi Uesugi, freelance journalist, to leave the press conference in order to appear on TV is "neglect of official duty" and is subject of censure.
An irresponsible government protects an irresponsible TEPCO, and newspapers and TV do not question TEPCO. The headline in the morning papers on December 17 will be "Cold Shutdown" in large fonts. Now, a good cause [cold shutdown] to "forcibly return" the residents has been given.
By the way, TEPCO wants to reduce the number of daily press conference to "one" (currently they are still holding two press conferences per day), and the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency wants to stop giving a daily press conference and only have it twice a week, now that the accident is "over".
Cold shutdown of information flow on the way, as the government embarks on an ever grander "Extend and Pretend" that everything is OK - decontaminating, returning the residents, making them grow crops again next year to feed the rest of Japan (some Fukushima farmers have already turned the soil in preparation for the next year's rice crop) while the NISA looks the other way even if TEPCO lets the treated water with full of strontium and tritium into the ocean.
You see, the radiation is a "kuro-ko" (person in black) in a Kabuki Theater. A "kuro-ko", dressed in black (thus the name), is present on the stage, assisting the actors or manipulating some tools for theatrical effects. He is there for all the audience to see. But it is an unspoken rule that the audience is not supposed to see, and ignore whatever he does on stage.
The whole country will continue to play Kabuki, until it can't, if that ever comes to pass.