Japanese Official Suspended Over Twitter Comment

A Japanese reconstruction official in charge of helping victims of the 2011 post-tsunami meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant has been taken off duty after sharp-eyed journalists unearthed tweets he wrote insulting area activists.

Written under a pseudonym in March 2013, the grumblings of Yasuhisa Mizuno, a councilor at the Reconstruction Agency, are only now coming back to haunt him.

The initial attention came from citizen media outlet OurPlanetTV, which has actively covered post-disaster Fukushima and kept an eye on government accountability. OurPlanetTV attended a seminar on March 7, 2013 hosted by concerned citizens and experts on potential health risks from Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. In the following video from the seminar, participants question government officials about reliable medical measurements of the health effects of living in the disaster-stricken area:

After speaking to the crowd at the seminar, Yasuhisa Mizuno made the following remark on Twitter [ja] under the pseudonym “ninja rider”[@jp1tej] in which he referred to the attendees using offensive language. Mizuno later deleted the Twitter account on June 13.

@jp1tej: 左翼のクソどもから、ひたすら罵声を浴びせられる集会に出席。不思議と反発は感じない。感じるのは相手の知性の欠除に対する哀れみのみ。

@jp1tej: Attended a meeting only to be booed by shitty leftists. Somehow I don't feel angry, instead I pity them for how unintelligent they are.

In April, OurPlanetTV made an information request in order to cross-reference Mizuno’s business trip record with the tweet. Finding correlation between his tweets and his travel, they were able to confirm that “ninja rider” was actually Mizuno grumbling on duty.

Major newspaper Mainchi Shimbun published a front page story [ja] in the morning paper on June 13, headlined “Reconstruction Agency Official's Offensive Tweet”, earning the matter even more attention. Faced with the scrutiny, the Reconstruction Agency held a press conference the next day, with its senior vice-minister apologizing for Mizuno's inappropriate comment on Twitter:

On June 21, the Reconstruction Agency announced [ja] that it had suspended Mizuno from duty for 30 days.

OurPlanetTV published the detailed archive [ja] of Twitter comments made by Mizuno, from the tweets he published under his real name on his first day at the Reconstruction Agency on August 17, 2012, to the subsequent posts he made under a pseudonym that he began using in October to, among other things, complain and sigh about his tiring work. This archive gained 19,000 likes on Facebook and many users have commented on the issue.

Some users sympathized with Mizuno and commented [ja]:

@sighrancor: 左翼のくだり以外何が問題なのか分からない。 匿名でガス抜きも許されないのか。

I don't see any problems other than his “shitty leftist” comment. Shouldn't this guy be allowed to get rid of stress under a pseudonym?

@hiroharu_minami :「王様の耳はロバの耳~~~」に近い話じゃなぁ。 ツィッター(てかNet一般)は愚痴ツールには向いてないんだよね、拡散力強すぎて。 「左翼のクズ」も発言自体は「ネトウヨ」並にありふれ過ぎて、気軽に使っちゃったんだろうな。 俺も左翼にはクズ一杯いるよなと思うので、この役人にはちょっと同情覚えるわ。

This reminds me of the story of “The King [Midas] Has Donkey Ears”. Twitter, and the Net in general, is not the best place to grumble because of its characteristic of amplifying powerfully. The word “shitty leftists” is as common and used as “netouyo [online right-wingers]“, so he blurted it out like everybody else does. I sympathize with him because I feel there certainly are many shitty leftists.

Keigo Takeda, the former editor of Newsweek Japan, criticized [ja] the press for making personal attacks over the gaffe:

@KeigoTakeda: 個人的にはOurPlanetTVの記事 http://ow.ly/lYXE7 や1面で追いかけた毎日新聞、掲載し続けるヤフーは、公務員とはいえ「気に入らない考えを持つ人を攻撃している」ようにしか見えない。メディアスクラムによる公開リンチでしょ

@KeigoTakeda: It seems to me that the media; OurPlantTV that archived the detailed post, Mainichi newspaper covered it on the front page, and Yahoo!JAPAN keeps covering the issue; are practicing just another form of public lynching, and forming media scrum only to make personal attacks on an unfavorable public figure.

But the issue is not about what he said on Twitter, wrote Kenichiro Kawasaki, an attorney and co-founder of  Save Fukushima Children Lawyers’ Network [ja]. On his blog, he argued [ja]:

水野参事官個人を叩いても仕方ない (中略)昨年6月21日に成立した原発事故子ども・被災者支援法は,自民党から共産党まで全会派賛成で成立した全会一致の法律。しかし,1年近く経ったいまも法定の「基本方針」の素案すら作られておらず,店晒しの状態が続いている。(中略)ツイッターへの彼の書き込みの内容は確かに不謹慎だし残念な内容だが,本質はそこではなく,彼が「支援法の基本方針を作らない」ことで「被災者・避難者の生活を追い詰める」ことに加担してきたことこそが問題。

There's no use in personally attacking the councilor Mizuno. […] The Assistance for Children and Nuclear Disaster Victims Act was established on June 21, 2012, the Diet passed the bill with all parties unanimously; from Liberal Democratic to the Communist Party. Yet after almost a year, there's not even a draft of a basic guideline [for the implementation of the law], and the law is just warming the shelf […] I am disappointed by his inappropriate comment on Twitter, but the heart of the issue should be directed towards the fact that Mizuno has done little to help the victims by not making the basic guideline for the Assistance Act, and rather his actions have victims with their backs up against the wall.

Thumbnail by Keiko Tanaka, with image from OurPlanetTV's video under Creative Commons Attribution license (reuse allowed)


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