Tuesday, February 14, 2012

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.

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