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国際人権ひろば No.122(2015年07月発行号)

Kokusai Jinken Hiroba No.122

Summary of the Japanese-language HURIGHTS OSAKA Newsletter No. 122, July 2015 (bimonthly)

Third phase (2015-2019) of the World Programme for Human Rights Education

(Deputy Director of Hurights Osaka,
Professor of the Graduate School of Osaka City University)

As a researcher on human rights education, I have met many people who take action for the realization of human rights. They are people from Buraku communities, migrants, women, people with disabilities, and from other socially disadvantaged groups. Through my encounters with these people, I understood that learning of rights is an empowerment, and that taking action for human rights leads to the restoration of humanity and change in society. 

International efforts on human rights education have stemmed from these people’s voices and actions seeking for the realization of human rights and democracy. 

Meanwhile, human rights education is not confined to the civil society.  Holders of duties to realize human rights (such as states and people working for state machineries) are required to understand human rights. In the international community, human rights education for “citizens” (rights-holders) and “duty holders” are considered as two wheels of the vehicle that carries human rights education forward. In a wider definition, both are part of human rights education, whereas in a narrower definition, the one for “citizens” is called “human rights education” and that for “duty holders” as “human rights training.” 

The World Programme for Human Rights Education stands on the same view. It has already entered in its third phase (2015-2019) after the first phase with the focus on human rights education in primary and secondary schools (2005-2009) and the second phase with the focus on human rights training for teachers, educators, public workers, law enforcement officers, and military personnel who bear duties to protect and to fulfill human rights of citizens, as well as on human rights education for higher education (2010-2014).  

The third phase focuses on human rights training for media professionals and journalists while strengthening implementation of the first and second phases. Here, the UN also makes a clear distinction between “education” and “training,” since media professionals and journalist play significant roles in democratic societies, imparting information for civil societies and exercising freedom of expressions.   

It should be noted that training for the media professionals and journalists is not simply the same training referred to in the second phase. An important question is: Who gives training to the media? Obviously, it should not be the state or the power holders as the media needs to keep its independence and critical position from power holders. Training needs to be independent, and the requests from the civil society (calling for the implementation of human rights standards in the media reports), NGOs and international networks play important roles in this regard.

It is also important that the Plan of Action for the Third Phase asks governments to provide safe and effective environment for media professionals, by establishing laws and policies for free information and freedom of expression, and laws and mechanisms to counteract hate speech, so that they safely and effectively learn human rights. It is essential that states fulfill their duties to protect democratic speech and guarantee safety of journalists.

In regard to the media and human rights, the non-fiction book about an incident of hate crime in Japan reminds me of the role of journalists. It was written by Il-song Nakamura who has documented the civil case filed against racists group by victim of the hate crime. The victims were the elementary school children, teachers and parents of Korean school in Kyoto, who had been repeatedly exposed to the violent verbal attacks of the racist group since 2009.  

As Japan does not have a national human rights commission nor a law prohibiting racial discrimination, victims are required to shoulder the burden of proof that they suffered from discrimination in the court. It is hard for them to replay or reproduce what has actually happened to them. In this case, Nakamura’s book stayed close to the victim in the process, and assumed the most difficult but important part to identify discrimination, which otherwise victims had to take. In December 2014 the Supreme Court upheld the rulings of the lower court that the hate speech constituted racial discrimination and that the racist group was ordered to pay compensation.

Journalists who are the focus of the Third Phase include those who disseminate information via social media. They are not necessarily professional journalists, but individuals who use the social media as a means of information dissemination, including racists. With the advancement of internet, a distinction between sender and receiver of information has become vague and everybody can send out information “unilaterally.” We are challenged to understand again what freedom of expression means.    


Challenges of the Media and Human Rights in Japan

(Project Professor of Graduate School of Osaka University)

In recent years, information dissemination via the Internet has been increasing while the established media, especially newspapers, have been losing its credibility. In the past, the established media covered different human rights issues including discrimination against Buraku, resident Koreans and persons with disabilities, and it had played an important role to a certain extent. Today, new issues of human rights relating to hate-speech, sexual minorities or irregular employment are emerging.  How has the established media responded to these new issues?

Regarding the issue of hate speech, the established media started to fully cover the problem in the spring of 2013 much later than the dispute over the problem on the cyberspace had begun. The established media did not dare to take up racists’ actions for the reason that it would incite discriminatory sentiments of readers or viewers. The media people now admit the fact that while the media evaded the hate speech problem by pretending not seeing it, the problem has become more extreme and social justice is being eroded. 

With the increased concern about the issue of sexual minority, news coverage on the issue has also been increasing, especially at local pages. The issue itself requires more comprehensive news coverage including the stereotyped gender roles or the improvement of women’s status.

Recent opinion surveys of different types indicate a sharp drop of reliability of the public in the established media, especially newspapers, partially due to the confusion of news report relating to the “comfort women” issue and Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. For the restoration of the lost reliability, newspaper companies and broadcasting companies are now strengthening their training and education programs for their reporters. In order for these challenges to be more effective in terms of human rights, each trainee, i.e., reporter, needs to train by his/herself, while society as a whole improves its understanding of journalism. 

The Plan of Actions for the Third Phase of the World Programme for Human Rights Education gives importance to guaranteeing the access to information, freedom of expression and safety of reporters or journalists. With the recent events occurring in Japan, it is warned that the media has to play its basic role as watch dog of the power holder.


Forty Years after the Saigon’s Fall – How People Reflect It

(photo journalist)

On April 30, 2015, the memorial ceremony for the 40th Anniversary of Liberation of South and Unification of South/North was held in Ho Chi Minh City with the attendance of the present state leaders of Vietnam. As a photo journalist who participated in the ceremony and interviewed concerned individuals, I am reporting how people involved in the war now see the history.  

Those who sought for the unification
A woman who worked for the central military hospital in Hanoi says, “We worked hard for the unification. Now it has been achieved and I am very happy about it.” A journalist of the former North Vietnam and worked as a journalist with the National Liberation Front for South Vietnam held the photo exhibition for the 40th anniversary in the war memorial museum in Ho Chi Minh City. During the opening ceremony of the exhibit, he said, “I hope that these photos will convey the ‘truth’ of the Vietnam War to as many people as possible.” 

Those who belonged to the allied force
What about those people who belonged to the allied force, i.e., Republic of Vietnam Military Force (South Vietnam) or US Military, how do they see the 40th anniversary? I also went to the US to interview some people.

In the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. a US citizen who was dispatched to Vietnam as a soldier for a year remembered the time saying, “I was one of a 40-member team. Seven of them lost their lives.” 

A Vietnamese who belonged to the Republic of Vietnam Military Force (South) and fought against the National Liberation Front for South Vietnam (North) remembered, “Now we are in peace, and the battle during that time does not bother us at all. As I was a soldier of the South Vietnam, I can never defeat Communists. Better not talk about politics in the open space.” In 1969, he lost his right leg and retired from the military before the war-end in August 1974.   

Vietnam War has created a large number of refugees called Indochina refugees after the war ended. Of the 1.44 million people who sought asylum, 1.3 million settled in third countries including the US, Canada, Australia, France and Japan. A man who left the country alone leaving his family arrived at the US as his destination when he was 24 years old. When the war ended, his house was destroyed by the Communists, who also took the food away from his family. Then, he crossed the sea with 21 other people who had similar experiences. Now he leads a peaceful life in Virginia State, and says that he does not remember well those days.

Scars of the War
The Vietnam War continued for about 15 years causing the death of more than 3.2 million Vietnamese and 58,000 US military personnel. What is Vietnam War? Even after 40 years, children with disabilities due to the effects of Agent Orange are still being born. And, many people still suffer the trauma. While Vietnam has been making a rapid economic growth, when will the trauma of these people get cured? 


Uganda Today – Travel to Think about Prevention of Recurrence of Conflict

(national government officer)

I stayed in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda, and in the north region of the country for a month in February 2015. In Uganda, a civil war between the government troops and the LRA, an armed force opposed to the government, took place from 1988 to 2006. During the war, many villagers were abducted by the LRA to force them to fight in the war or provide labor.  The abducted included more than 60,000 children aged below 18, some of whom were forced to kill others, while others were forced into prostitution. As I am concerned about the issue of child soldiers with my belief that no child should be hurt by war, I went to Uganda to find solutions by myself.

I visited Gul, the largest city in the north region and a six-hour ride from the capital city, where thousands of children used to get together to seek shelter from the attack and abduction by the LRA during the civil war. I had a chance to interview two former child soldiers (one boy and one girl) in Lukodi, a village close to Gul. On May 19, 2004, the LRA attacked the refugee camp in the village and killed 64 people. The two children were abducted when they were 13 and 14 years old, respectively, to become child soldiers. To my question on what they needed most after safely returning from LRA control, the former girl soldier answered she needed a cleansing ceremony. Cleansing implies exorcizing of the evil. It is believed that killers are haunted by the spirit of their victims unless the killers are cleansed. She was saved by this rite. 

In the north region of Uganda, a number of people had tragic episodes caused by the civil war. They need “salvation” and “forgiveness.” Many of them became Christians through the teaching of missionaries. I was escorted to a Christian church in Gul to see the mass, and realized two things. First, how God was important for people in the community. They desperately sought “salvation,” and believed that they have achieved salvation. All of them strongly believe in the charismatic church leader. Second, I was afraid that their attitude toward the leader might lead to conflict. 

The follow-the-leader mentality that people in Uganda may have could be changed by equipping themselves with critical thinking; making them understood that leaders do not necessarily make right decisions. After my return from Uganda, I found that the real purpose of introducing science and mathematics education in Africa was to help people develop critical thinking. 

Through my interviews with former child soldiers, I also found that it was important to give child soldiers psychological care and vocational training. After their return to their hometown, some killed themselves or committed crimes since they found no place to fit in. My travel to Uganda has shown me what I could do to prevent the recurrence of civil war. 


Report on the Nepal Earthquake by Durga Sob of FEDO

The great earthquake hit Nepal on April 25, 2015 has wreaked tremendous damage. According to the announcement of the Nepali government, more than 8,700 were killed and 22,000 were injured while 500,000 houses were destroyed as of June 1. On May 4, Hurights Osaka organized a rally inviting Durga Sob, President of FEDO (Feminist Dalit Organization) of Nepal, who spoke about aftermath of the earthquake. Based in Nepal, FEDO exclusively works for the empowerment and uplifting the life of Dalit women in Nepal. FEDO is a partner organization of the IMADR, the International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism, and Durga is its board member. 

Durga stressed that everybody was equally hit by the earthquake, but everybody does not necessarily suffer from the damage.  Especially, those affected who belong to marginalized communities are not treated equally in rescuing or providing relief by the government, international agencies and NGOs. Right after the earthquake, staff members of FEDO in the central office in Kathmandu started to visit the affected villages of the marginalized communities located in remote areas to provide relief goods such as foods, blankets, medicines and tents, and to hear the situations of those affected. Durga said that most of those people had not been visited by rescue teams and given any provisions until the FEDO team arrived.  

FEDO will continue its relief programs not only by giving the affected necessary goods, but also by providing information service regarding the reconstruction and rehabilitation and counseling service especially for those suffering trauma.

NGOs including IMADR have started to collect donation to help the affected people and communities in Nepal. Durga solicited continuing support from people in Japan.