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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #209: April 20, 2004

Last two freed Japanese hostages arrive home

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

"Last two freed Japanese hostages arrive home"


It is already so quiet in Japan that if one had been cut off from media for the past ten days, he would not be able to imagine of all the hassle that went on during the three and then two Japanese were kidnapped in Iraq and then all safely returned home.

As the incident ended without involving serious consequences, it might be allowed to summarize that the Japanese people has had a rare opportunity to search their souls.

Since the first reports of the kidnapping came in, families of the original three hostages became the focal point of media reports, lead by live TV coverage of press conferences and announcements they make. The words coming out of the families initially were very strong, essentially accusing the government for the cause and claiming it accountable for any consequences. A certain level of outburst would obviously be dismissed assuming their mental state, but when they kept on accusing the government for everything that had happened, while no expression was heard of regret with regard to their family members' carelessness in entering Iraq despite the obvious risks, people began to become disenchanted with an effort to sympathize with the family, while their attitude of ever-demanding, never asking, had already raised eyebrows of many.

The family members were supposedly not the ones to be blamed for their seemingly arrogant presentation, however. They were the victims of the crime, and also there were unconfirmed indications that their words were directed by their supporters with political intents. People refrained, therefore, initially to comment on the families' behaviors, which could have sent them a wrong message that they are not just the focal point of media but also the center of all of Japan's affairs, of the government and the people.

After a few days, however, temper of some people ran out, and a backlash began. The family members were apparently shocked to see that not everyone was thinking and feeling the same way they do, especially in the way they sought to manipulate the policy of the country, no matter how controversial it might be. That was when a news conference was held at the Foreign Press Club, where the family members spoke very little, especially nothing of the sort to accuse the government, which lead a German reporter to doubt if the freedom of speech exists in Japan.

It seems there were many who would not want to give in to the kidnappers. There were a couple of minor political parties who felt it a good opportunity to enforce their own policy agenda of recalling SDF from Iraq, but the promotion was effectively rejected by the people as it being too cunning and disrespectful. In fact, the largest opposition, the Democratic Party announced that although they were against the dispatch of the SDF itself, they would stand by the government in not giving in to the kidnappers' demands.

Then people began to recognize that the true nature of the hostage issue was not whether Japan should have SDF in Iraq of not, but is a conflict between two forces, one to live up to the policy decision of not acceding to the threats of terrorists, and the other to save its citizens through whatever means possible. Giving in to terrorists seems to be the easier of the two alternatives at first, but it has been proven that such a response would rather increase risks for its citizens while losing faith of legitimate countries all over the world. Choosing not to give in is difficult as the government could be held responsible for any immediate and serious consequences, but it could discourage similar attempts by the terrorists in the future and acquire respects of other countries.

Thus, this is the choice Japanese government, and people, have had to face with, and have come to recognize it as such. And, at least this time, it seems people's choice had been clear since a relatively early stage of the incident.

Copyright © Japanese Institute of Global Communications