Issues in Legal Scholarship
Editor-in-Chief: Singh, Charanjit
SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.104
Japan’s News Media, The Information Disclosure Law, and The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster
Official investigations that followed the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster revealed that it could have been prevented by reasonable safety measures. Investigators concluded that close relationships between government officials and industry executives led to very weak regulatory oversight and the failure to address the risk of violent earthquakes and tsunami such as those that struck the Fukushima Nuclear Power Station on March 11, 2011. News reporters conducted their own investigations in the months following the disaster. Japan’s information disclosure law provided an invaluable tool that enabled them to obtain government records related to regulation of Japan’s nuclear power plants. This article describes some of the stories they produced. Appearing on the front pages of newspapers with daily circulations in the millions, this work provided an authoritative inside view of the failed regulatory process to the Japanese people. The work of the investigative bodies and the news media drove the demand for change that led to disbanding of the regulatory agencies that failed and their replacement by an entirely new regulatory body. This article highlights the importance of “right to know” laws such as Japan’s information disclosure law in creating the opportunity for news reporters and others to demand the release of otherwise confidential government records that can enlighten everyone on matters of great public interest.