Hiroshima newspaper promotes peace through English-Japanese website

Akira Tashiro
Executive Director, Hiroshima Peace Media Center

On that grim morning of August 6, 1945, the Chugoku Shimbun, Hiroshima’s daily newspaper, experienced the atomic bombing along with 330,000 residents and thousands of others in the city that day. Back then, the headquarters of the newspaper was located less than 900 meters east of the hypocenter. The blast left the building a burnt shell, the outer walls standing but the equipment and materials inside utterly ravaged. Amid the city’s mounting death toll, 114 of the newspaper’s employees--nearly one-third of our total workforce at the time--were lost to the world’s first nuclear weapon aimed at the human race.

Despite the tremendous devastation, the Chugoku Shimbun rose from the ashes to resume publishing soon after the catastrophe. Since the end of World War II, the newspaper has reflected on the experience of war and the atomic bombing, and reoriented its mission by vowing to promote peace in the world. Toward this end, our journalism efforts have been fixed on furthering the abolition of nuclear weapons and a world without war, as well as providing support to the A-bomb survivors, the hibakusha, by drawing attention to their plight. In the past, although some of this coverage was translated into English to extend the newspaper’s reach beyond Japan, most of the work could be accessed only in Japanese.

However, in January 2008, the Chugoku Shimbun launched the Hiroshima Peace Media Center, a new wing of the newspaper. The Peace Media Center is an online platform--a bilingual English-Japanese website--which now serves as our “English voice” to the world, speaking out to the international community from the A-bombed city of Hiroshima.

More than five years since it was established, the Peace Media Center website holds over 12,000 articles on a range of themes. These include news and features on peace issues and nuclear issues, particularly concerning nuclear weapons, commentaries from global figures in the field, and testimonies from A-bomb survivors. The website also maintains a gallery of photographs which depict the devastating impact of the Hiroshima bombing. Recently, a short documentary film, an illuminating video entitled “Hiroshima 1945: The A-bombing and the Chugoku Shimbun,” has been added to the site.

The scope of coverage extends beyond issues involving Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Feature stories have focused on radiation victims around the world in “Exposure: Victims of Radiation Speak Out” and “Discounted Casualties: Human Costs of Depleted Uranium.” The consequences of the crippled nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture have also been an ongoing concern in the work of the Chugoku Shimbun and the Hiroshima Peace Media Center.

Activities of the junior writers

Along with disseminating information to the world on peace and nuclear issues, the Peace Media Center has sought to hand down the A-bomb experience to the next generation. This effort to bequeath the spirit of “No More Hiroshimas” to young people is embodied in the many activities of our “junior writers,” a team of junior high and high school students from Hiroshima.

As the city’s future leaders, the junior writers actively conduct interviews with A-bomb survivors about their experiences. Through these interviews, the junior writers not only learn about the horrors of the atomic bombing, they come to recognize the strength of the survivors in overcoming the many hardships they faced through the postwar era and their fervent desire to hand down the message of cherishing peace to younger generations.

Nearly every week these student reporters also prepare articles for the column “Junior Writers Reporting,” which features organizations that are dedicated to peace and international exchange. Through their work, some of the junior writers have been inspired to take action themselves and have participated in international exchange activities and peace-related efforts.

Seeking to help realize a nuclear-free world

Sixty-eight years have now passed since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and yet the shadows of nearly 18,000 nuclear weapons darken the world, and the harmful effects of nuclear testing and accidents at nuclear power stations remain a grave problem. The security of our planet is still thwarted--indeed, its very survival still threatened--by the peril of nuclear weapons. Today our species faces a dilemma that grows ever more dangerous due to nuclear proliferation, nuclear terrorism, and endless conflict. The dire hazards of the world’s surging stocks of radioactive materials, including plutonium, and the brimming pools of spent nuclear fuel are also a widespread concern.

The Chugoku Shimbun, founded in 1892, publishes both a morning and evening edition, and currently has a circulation of 640,000 for its morning edition. As a leading media company in Japan, and an A-bomb survivor as well, we are keenly mindful of our duty to pursue reporting that can advance global action for the fulfillment of a peaceful world no longer menaced by nuclear arms and war. To further this mission, we moved to strengthen our capacity to deliver coverage in English and Japanese through the Hiroshima Peace Media Center.

To date, people in over 160 nations and territories around the world have accessed the Peace Media Center website. Some of this content, such as the accounts of A-bomb survivors, have been used in programs studying peace and disarmament issues at colleges in the United States and in other countries. People from a range of nations have also reached out to us, glad to make use of the many resources on Hiroshima that our site offers.

We will soon enter the 69th year since the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and the average age of the survivors is now nearly 79. Though the hopes of abolishing nuclear weapons and war have yet to be fulfilled, all those who have come to Peace Memorial Park today, to witness the ceremony and stand at the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims, have made a quiet vow to help advance this aim. The Chugoku Shimbun, too, will continue striving to be a global leader in advocating the abolition of nuclear weapons and promoting peace in the world.

Akira Tashiro is a senior staff writer for the Chugoku Shimbun and the executive director of the Hiroshima Peace Media Center. An award-winning journalist, his exploration of the nature and meaning of the nuclear age in “Nuclear Age: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow” earned the 1996 Vaughn-Ueda Prize, Japan’s equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize. In recognition of his long-time coverage of nuclear issues and peace issues, he received the Japan National Press Club Award in April 2003.