Waseda Chronicle’s Forced Sterilization Series Wins the Grand Prize in Poverty Journalism

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After the ceremony, Makoto Watanabe, editor-in-chief of the Waseda Chronicle, talked about the role of non-profit and independent journalism organizations in Japan=18 September, 2018, Tokyo(C)Waseda Chronicle

The non-profit Anti-Poverty Network on Sept. 18 announced that it will award its excellence in reporting on poverty prize to the Waseda Chronicle’s forced sterilization investigative journalism series. The organization said that the Chronicle has “blazed a path” in the reporting of this issue. The award ceremony was held on the same day of the announcement.

“People in power have always abused people without power – that hasn’t changed,” said Makoto Watanabe, editor in chief of the Waseda Chronicle, in his speech at the ceremony. “Throughout our reporting, we have constantly questioned which side we are with and who we are reporting for.”

The Chronicle’s series on forced sterilization began on Feb. 13, 2018. Its reporting revealed that local municipalities in Japan competed against each other to sterilize people and collected the medical and criminal documents of the patients’ relatives and families, on request from the labor and welfare ministry at that time. (The Chronicle also found that the Hokkaido government published a pamphlet commemorating the fact that it had sterilized over 1,000 people). Through the story of one female victim, the Chronicle also reported that the Board of Governors of NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster, and the chairman of the Kahoku Shimpo, an influential regional newspaper in Sendai, were involved in this heinous national project. The reporting has pushed the central government to consider redress for the victims. The established media have followed the example of the Chronicle in investigating this issue. The Chronicle continues to report on forced sterilization.

The Chronicle is an official member of GIJN, the Global Investigative Journalism Network. The Chronicle will talk about its coverage on the forced sterilization at IJAsia 2018, the 2018 Asian Investigative Journalism Conference and KCIJ/Newstapa hosted by GIJN in Seoul next month.

English website: Series”Forced Sterilization

“Chronicle revealed victims’ chagrin over human rights violation” “More public recognition required for journalism by the non-profit organizations”

Below is the detailed explanation for awarding the Chronicle’s coverage

For decades after World War II, the Eugenic Protection Law imposed forced sterilizations on people suffering from mental illnesses and physical disabilities. Supported by the government, such surgeries were legally practiced from 1948, when the law was enacted, until 1996, when it was repealed. In recent years the victims have started raising their voices and taking their cases to court, triggering media coverage by major news organizations. The Waseda Chronicle, an online-based nonprofit news organization, blazed a path for such media coverage when it released the first reporting on this issue in February this year. The Chronicle is the first serious non-governmental investigative news organization in Japan. Its funding comes solely from donations from its readers and it takes no advertising money or subscription fees.

The Chronicle published 26 related articles until the end of August this year based on materials acquired through the public information disclosure act. Japan was rocked when the perpetrator of the 2016 massacre on a facility for the mentally disabled in Sagamihara confessed to being motivated by eugenics. The reporting by the Chronicle clearly revealed that Japan’s central and local governments as well as doctors and journalism organizations were “preventing the births of inferior offspring” in a concerted effort based on the concept of eugenics. One article uncovered a case where a victim was forcibly sterilized just because her poverty prevented her from doing well in school. Their reporting is a warning that the same mistakes will be repeated unless society looks squarely at “the heinous history (of forced sterilization.)”

By chronicling the chagrin and sorrow of the victims of such human rights violations, the Chronicle’s reporting was an outstanding contribution to the journalism achievement, and it continues to pursue this issue to date.

Compared to other non-profit investigative journalism organizations, which in the past have received Pulitzer Prizes, few people in Japan are aware of such journalism efforts. With this award, it is our wish that the non-profit/non-government investigative journalism will earn more recognition in Japan.

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