In the build-up to the G8 Summit in Japan this year, there has been a flurry of organizing of media groups. Local citizens' (shimin)media and alternative media groups have gotten into gear. The prime ministers' meeting in Hokkaido will be held at Lake Toya, in national park seclusion. Most alternative/counter-events are projected to take place in the provincial capital, Sapporo.
Will there be an IMC in Sapporo? There will surely be a media center (perhaps even several) to support alternative and activist media, but if it will fly a (((i))) flag or not is too early to say.
The media center working group has chosen "IMC Sapporo" as their English working title, and set up a preliminary blog and e-mail address under that name, but their relationship to the IMC network, and the existing IMCjp remains to be spelled out. They had initially intended to use the name "Independent Media Center" in a generic sense. The planned Japanese name is "G８市民メディアセンター札幌" (roughly translatable as G8 Citizens Media Center Sapporo).
IMCjp, established in 2002 to cover anti-war protests, maintains only a website with a small and far-flung group of volunteers. Working with local groups providing physical centers would be beneficial to all involved (along the lines of the IMC Germany model, where a number of local collectives share a website). However, Sapporo organizers are hesitant and say they want to learn more about Indymedia and then consider the pros and cons in their the local situation (where they need to negotiate with a wide range of groups and institutions for cooperation, funding and space).
Few Japanese media activists know anything about IMCs, less yet the network. This is mostly due to language and cultural barriers and is true for most of non-English speaking Asia. Misperceptions of Indymedia include:
- an international organization like Amnesty with a more or less fixed membership and local branches
- a movement without any governance structures or membership requirements
- a generic term for non-profit media
In fact the international network of IMCs, though it is loose, has some membership criteria, a governance structure and shares a logo.
Understandably, clarifying their relationship with Indymedia is low on the list of priorities for Sapporo media center working group.The working group consists of a few volunteers from a number of local community groups, and media/culture NPOs. They are busy negotiating for spaces with the local government, and fundraising. The Sapporo working group will support citizens', activist and alternative media in their coverage of the events around the summit. The eventual hope is to lay the groundwork for a permanent citizens media center in Sapporo.
The Sapporo Center group will focus on providing the space (and perhaps some media facilities 'in the fields'), but is not planning to maintain any online presence beyond a multi-lingual blog with logistic information. The G8 Media Network, a group of established Japanese alternative media organizations/networks, including Labornetjp, IMCjp, AMARCjapan WG and ourplanet-TV will provide content and channels, and help coordinate production groups. The G8 Media Network is planning to set up an easy way to share content across the G8MediaNetwork platforms and IMCjp. IMCjp is considering a complete site overhaul, but resources are limited and time is short.
Together with local groups organizing around the G8, the Sapporo working group also targets local mainstream media, confronting journalists who are trying to stir up irrational fears on one hand and on the other working with sympathetic journalists to promote citizens media perspectives.
All in all the center working group is a bit daunted by the high expectations on them, but speakers at a recent symposium reassured them that activists from abroad would not only come expecting services but also contributing and sharing their experience, with long-term benefits beyond the summit.