Media Strategies of Movement Actors in Times of Increasing Mass Media (Self)-Control: The Case of the Japanese Anti-Nuclear Movement Since the 2011 Fukushima Disaster

Monday, 11 July 2016: 09:45
Location: Seminarsaal 10 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Anna WIEMANN, University of Hamburg, Germany
Since the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster in March 2011 Japanese journalists encounter increasing difficulties to report critically about disaster-related topics. They are specifically threatened by „[a]rrests, home searches, interrogation by the domestic intelligence agency and threats of judicial proceedings“ (Reporters without Borders 2015). This and other government action created an atmosphere in which traditional mass media increasingly (self)-censor reports on sensitive topics.

For social movements, media represent an indispensable tool for “mobilization, validation, and scope enlargement” (Gamson and Wolfsfeld 1993: 116). Movements depend on being able to reach and mobilize a broad population. Media coverage of movement issues add credibility to their cause and thereby also strengthen their position of power in relation to opponents. But how do movement actors react if their position is weakened by limited access to mass media? Can so far uncontrolled internet-based media replace coverage in traditional mass media?

Against this background, this presentation deals with the question of how Japanese anti-nuclear movement actors integrate internet-based media into their media strategies. Based on the analysis of 24 qualitative interviews with movement actors conducted in 2013 and 2014, I trace three narratives, namely, the movement-media interaction after the nuclear disaster, the actor’s evaluation of the Japanese media landscape, and their reaction on the increasing (self)-censorship of the mass media. By doing so, it becomes clear that internet-based media have gained and are still gaining importance in the media strategies of movement actors in Japan. However, from their point of view, digital alternative media cannot entirely substitute traditional media, as large parts of the highly aged Japanese society still very much trust the latter. This indicates that the growing (self)-censorship of traditional media in parts successfully weakens the mobilization potential of the anti-nuclear movement in Japan.