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Japan: Mainichi's “Foreign Staff”

In the latest step in a long and drawn out controversy, Mainichi newspaper has issued a 3-page official apology in response to the harsh backlash from Japanese people concerning its English-language WaiWai column. Written by editor Ryann Connell, WaiWai featured highly-embellished translations of articles from Japan's weekly tabloids, the majority of which were fabrications. People in Japan, particularly Internet users, have reacted by creating websites and campaigns [ja] targeting Mainichi for spreading false information about Japan, some of which went as far as to be incorporated as fact [ja] in a report on human trafficking by the Organization of American States (OAS).

Blogger polimediauk (Ginko Kobayashi/小林恭子) at “British Media Watch” (小林恭子の英国メディア・ウオッチ) wrote a long post on Mainichi's apology, in which, among other things, she questions the way that foreign and Japanese staff of Mainichi Daily News (the English-language Mainichi site) have been separated and treated differently:

それと、「外国人スタッフが」という言葉が何度も出てくる。これが非常に日本的な感じがする。何故、英文毎日の外国人スタッフと日本人スタッフを分けるのか、という問題だ。どちらも英文毎日の「スタッフ」ではないのだろうか。仕事内容や雇用体系が若干違っていても、同じ仲間ではないのか。直接は書かれていないのだけれども、「外国人=日本の知識が少ない」、「日本人=事情を良く分かっている人」という分け方をしているのだろうか。どうも差別に聞こえてしまう。どちらも「プロ」として仕事をまかされていたのではないのだろうか。それとも、外国人スタッフは1つ下の存在だったのか?国籍はどうであれ、日本に関しての記事を書く・編集するには十分な知識と力量があるからこそ、雇われていたのではなかったのか?「外からやってきた人」が起こした問題、と片付けたがっているような感じがする。

And then there's this word “foreign staff” that keeps coming up. It feels like such an extremely Japanese thing. Why do they have to divide the staff of the Mainichi Daily News [English-language Mainichi] into foreign staff and Japanese staff? Aren't they both staff of Mainichi Daily News? Even if their job descriptions and employment systems may differ a bit, they're all part of the same group, right? They don't mention it directly, but seems to me that they are making a division between “foreigners, who have no knowledge about Japan” and “Japanese, who understand the situation very well”. Sure sounds like discrimination to me. Both groups had their jobs delegated to them as “professionals”, no? Or is it that foreign staff are somehow one level below [Japanese staff]? Whatever their citizenship, weren't these people hired exactly because they have the knowledge and abilities necessary to write and edit articles about Japan? Looks to me like they just want to sweep this all under the carpet as a problem brought on by “people who came from outside [of Japan]”.

[Via shinyai's Twitter feed and yuco.tumblr.com]

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