Friday, February 17, 2012

The Death of Abubakar Awudu Suraj

Abubakar Awudu Suraj, a Ghanian national who entered Japan in 1988 on a 15-day visa, was deported as a visa overstayer on March 22, 2010, having been arrested in an immigration sweep in 2009. 

Mr. Suraj never made it to Cairo, the destination of his Egypt Air flight, on that fateful day in March, 2010.  In fact, for him there was neither take-off nor landing. What happened? This post will try to provide some background. See here for an informative piece from the Japan Times.

As I see it, this matter really concerns excessive force used by airport police, regardless of whether one believes, as I do, that Mr. Suraj deserved amnesty for his visa violations.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Difficulty Verifying Johnson's Claims

A visit to Reuters's site does not produce any search results to support Christopher Johnson's claim on the sidebar of his site 'globalite' that "Reuters named our Yak Packer photos of Tibetan riots among their Pictures of the Decade".

Maybe I just don't know how to use search engines.

Christopher Johnson, Tibet Uprising

As written previously, any attempt to reach an informed opinion in the case of Canadian freelance journalist Christopher Johnson necessarily involves Mr. Johnson's credibility. 

Johnson is a bona fide journalist- there is no disputing that.  But certain of his boasted journalistic accomplishments do not appear to hold up under scrutiny.

Take for example the claim on Johnson's site's sidebar that he "witnessed Tibetan uprising in Lhasa, broke story via Reuters, Toronto Star, Christian Science Monitor (CSM), others".

Johnson did indeed write a piece on the uprising for the CSM.  But the dateline is March 14, 2008, Tokyo- not Lhasa, Tibet.  In other words, Johnson was not a witness of the unrest.  Who provided eye-witness accounts? Johnson writes in his report that information on the uprising was obtained from a group of foreign backpackers who communicated to reporters via phone and e-mail that day.


Christopher Johnson: Redux

A few weeks ago I wrote (and later deleted) several posts about Canadian freelance journalist Christopher Johnson on this blog. If you haven't been following Johnson's ever-changing tale of alleged intimidation and abuse at the hands of Japanese immigration at Narita International Airport and the security detail employed by airlines to supervise foreign nationals denied entry into the country, see here.

Now, I am not the only one who has doubted parts of Johnson's narrative since his story surfaced, as the former of the above links shows.  But why did I delete my blog posts about Johnson?  Simply, I felt they were too harsh and that I was being a bit of an asshole.  More than a bit, really. I had challenged Johnson's assertions and impugned his credibility without performing more than a superficial background check of claims he makes on his blog.

Johnson's story raises important issues. First and foremost is the question of what goes on in immigration detention facilities in Japan.  Setting aside for a moment the matter of Johnson's veracity, it seems fair to conclude, based on reports of others' experiences (links forthcoming), that Japanese immigration authorities sometimes cross the line.  The Japanese justice ministry, under whose bailiwick immigration falls, needs to investigate vigorously claims of detainee abuse and to be forthcoming regarding practices at its detention centers.

Another crucial issue raised by Johnson's account is that of his own reliability.  We have only his own word for what happened. If we are to add Johnson's tale to the body of evidence (links forthcoming) demonstrating that Japanese immigration sometimes abuse detainee rights, then we must be able to trust him.  As Christopher Johnson is a journalist, this is especially true.

 Links: See here , here, and here to read about 2 Ghanian men who died in separate incidents in 2010 while in the custody of Japanese immigration.

The Global Detention Project provides valuable information (several years old, though) on Japanese detention practices and facilities here.

A Retraction: Thousands of US Infants Die from Fukushima Radiation

In a post from December of last year concerning fallout from Fukushima, Japan, I cited a study conducted by 'respected' epidemiological experts whose research was published in the International Journal of Health Sciences.
The study purported to trace a link between the nuclear catastrophe at Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi plant and an modest increase in infant mortality in the US last spring.

The journal is peer reviewed, and I trusted the editorial staff  and reviewers to do their job. Which they didn't.

Turns out I was very wrong about the authors' findings; in fact, the authors, anti-nuclear activists, cooked the books. 

I stand corrected- thanks to a good friend for alerting me to problems with my post. 

See here for a powerful debunking.