Inaugurating the Hiroshima Peace Media Center

by Akira Tashiro, Executive Director of the Hiroshima Peace Media Center
The Hiroshima Peace Media Center, established by the Chugoku Shimbun, launched this bilingual website on January 3, 2008 with the aim of advancing the abolition of nuclear weapons and a world without war through reporting related to the atomic bombing and peace issues. The Peace Media Center website is designed to transmit noteworthy information from the city of Hiroshima to the international community by providing coverage on matters involving peace and war in English as well as in Japanese.

In anticipation of the founding of the Hiroshima Peace Media Center on January 1, 2008, my colleagues and I have spent the past three months engaged in preparations. During this time, I took the opportunity to reflect on the Chugoku Shimbun’s past coverage of the atomic bombing and peace issues, which have been at the heart of our work for these 62 years since the immediate aftermath of the bombing.

The Chugoku Shimbun has produced a great quantity of articles and photographs in this field through the work of reporters, editors, and photographers, past and present. Many of these articles and photographs have recorded the activities of numerous people, including hibakusha (A-bomb survivors) in Japan and overseas, who are striving towards the abolition of nuclear weapons and the fulfillment of a more peaceful world.

These articles have covered such activities as: the Peace Memorial Ceremonies held every August 6th since 1947; sit-in demonstrations in front of the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims, by hibakusha and other citizens, protesting nuclear weapons tests despite scorching heat or bitter cold; conferences held around the world, sponsored by anti-nuclear organizations and citizen groups, to advocate the banning of atomic bombs and hydrogen bombs; hibakusha delivering testimonies of the atomic bombing in Japan and overseas; and appeals for peace through the arts, including novels, poetry, music, fine art, film, and theater.

Over the years our coverage has expanded to consider these issues from a broader and contextual perspective, too. Two cases in point, which underscore the gravity of the extended challenges posed by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, include our reports on relief efforts for hibakusha who continue to suffer from the aftereffects of the bombing and our wide-ranging investigation abroad to determine the true extent of radiation damage in the world.

As a journalist, I have reported on the atomic bombing, nuclear issues, and other peace-related themes for almost 30 years. In particular, since the late 1980s, I have covered the reality of nuclear harm within the nuclear powers themselves, such as U.S. workers, residents, and veterans who have suffered the ramifications of radiation exposure and the plight of people living in the Kashmir region who are caught up in the long conflict between India and Pakistan, now nuclear weapon states.

The articles I write embrace Hiroshima as a touchstone and I strongly believe that they embody universal messages of value to the world. At the same time, I have also felt some frustration that these messages, as the articles are written in Japanese, cannot easily be shared with the people who have been involved in this coverage or with the people in the countries concerned.

One exception is a series of feature articles published in 2000 entitled “Discounted Casualties: The Human Cost of Depleted Uranium.” After this series was translated into English and posted on the Chugoku Shimbun website, I received responses not only from the countries highlighted in the articles-the U.S., the U.K., and Iraq-but from countries elsewhere in the world, such as Italy and Belgium. It was at that time I recognized the great potential of the Internet as a forum for our coverage.

When people understand the true suffering and harm caused by depleted uranium weapons-weapons that release poisonous particles of radiation and heavy metal-they are typically moved to believe that the production and use of these weapons should be banned by the international community. When I began covering this issue in 1999, most of the world hadn’t even heard of depleted uranium. Since then, however, the situation has fortunately changed. A movement opposing the use of depleted uranium weapons has gathered momentum in Europe, Japan, and other countries, leading to the adoption of a resolution by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2007 which expresses serious health concerns over these weapons and calls for further inquiry.

In regard to the abolition of nuclear weapons, I’m afraid the magnitude of the political and national implications of disarmament as well as the massive resistance of the military-industrial complex have raised walls that stand much higher before us. Still, we must tear down this wall of false belief in nuclear deterrence that sits entrenched in the soil of nuclear states and those nations considering nuclear weapons programs. Towards this end, the true horror of these weapons must be clearly conveyed to the world and specifically to these countries.

At the same time, an international environment in which human beings do not feel compelled to depend on military arms for their security, as epitomized by nuclear weapons, must also be fostered. It would seem fitting for Hiroshima, and Japan, as survivors of the world’s first atomic bombing, to serve as mediators in facilitating mutual trust among nations, religions, and ethnicities.

Our contents in English at this website must begin modestly, but a foundation for the future is now in place and we are poised to increase our output to the world. By conveying coverage on peace-related issues from the city of Hiroshima-in effect, the lessons we have learned through our felt experience-the Hiroshima Peace Media Center is committed to contributing to the eventual realization of a true global village that is free from nuclear weapons and war.