Japanese Whaling: The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth

So help me Greenpeace!

Feature story - 19 March, 2009
We have lodged an appeal against Japanese government censorship, calling on the Fisheries Agency of Japan (FAJ) to release uncensored documentation of whale meat sales.Previously we obtained these documents through a 2008 Freedom of Information request but the FAJ had blacked out large sections so that almost every line was obscured.

Do you think the whaling industry has something to hide?

These heavily censored documents represent the level of secrecy surrounding the Government-funded whaling industry. The FAJ is unacceptably in breach of its own promise of transparency and accountability.

Our formal appeal, co-signed by Shokichi Kina - an Upper House Diet member from the Democratic Party of Japan, comes as our activists Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuk, known as the 'Tokyo Two', prepare for the next stage of their court case in Aomori next week. The two are on trial for exposing an embezzlement ring inside the Japanese whaling fleet.

Update, March 23rd: Three independent, international experts have submitted key testimonies to the Japanese court, with human rights expert, Prof. Dirk Voorhoof, saying that sanctioning the Tokyo Two could have "a serious chilling effect on others who report on embezzlement or other wrongdoing", and that a criminal conviction of the two would amount toa "violation of the right of freedom of expression and the right of the public to be properly informed about the whale meat embezzlement in Japan."

Read the testimonies from: Professor Voorhoof - media law and journalism ethics, Professor Rothwell - international law and Professor Schabas - human rights and law.

Demands for disclosure

A series of  silmultaneous events at Japanese embassies around the world also took place in support of our appeal and the Tokyo Two.


The public pays

Despite the current economic crisis - the worst in a century in Japan - the FAJ continues to subsidise the ICR's 'scientific' whaling expeditions to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary to the tune of 500 million Japanese yen ($5 million USD) a year. Taxpayers are footing the bill for this unprofitable enterprise, yet the FAJ is denying the public of their right to know how their money is being spent.

The uncensored truth is that the Japanese public are paying for anecologically and economically unsustainable whale hunt in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary that isneither needed or wanted by anyone outside the whaling industry and ahandful of bureaucrats.

No more excuses

"The public has an overriding right to information on misconduct by government officials. The Tokyo Two acted within the long-standing traditions of international human rights, and in the best interests of the Japanese public,"

-- International human rights lawyer Richard Harvey.

In January the FAJ explained its decision to hide the whale meat sales with the following:

"There is a risk not to be able to secure a fair and just sales programme of the by-products (whale meat) if the information relating to the contract of consignment sales and the sales performance of the by-products are released to the public."

But there is no legitimate excuse for keeping such material out of the public domain, particularly when it is the public purse which is funding this programme. We have a right to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!

Illegal souvenirs

The initial information regarding the whale meat scandal was brought to us by a whistleblower from within the industry. After a four-month investigation we discovered that this embezzlement has been going on for decades and had become an open secret. Government officials failed to stop the practice and are now trying to legitimise it by claiming the meat was a "souvenir" for the crew.

The arrest and ongoing trial of the Tokyo Two shows that the whaling lobby realises it has no legitimate defence, and is now resorting to locking up its critics instead. Japan is obligated under international law to protect those who expose corruption. But when concerned citizens like Junichi and Toru are turned into criminals for exposing a crime - this sends a message to anyone wishing to expose government wrongdoing - that they may pay for their concern with their liberty.

Take Action!

If you are also guilty of opposing corruption inside the whaling industry then you should ask Japan to arrest you too!

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