Cattle farmer Masami Yoshizawa is desperate to get the word out that livestock in the no-entry zone around the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant can be saved.
He has been trying to post reports online about his efforts to keep his herd alive, and this has led to a run-in with the authorities.
The town of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, has made it a requirement that Yoshizawa, 58, agree to get official approval before he posts any report online.
Yoshizawa says his constitutional right to freedom of expression is being trampled upon, and his lawyers are preparing a request for the central government and the town to withdraw the restriction, which they say constitutes censorship.
Yoshizawa keeps 300 head of cattle at his farm in the no-entry zone, defying the state policy for all livestock there to be culled.
Yoshizawa said he applied for approval to enter the zone last November for the first time. His application was met with a demand that he give approval in writing for the town to check his work before it goes online. He also had to agree not to let media representatives accompany him to his farm.
"I want to tell people on the outside via the Web and other means that there's a way to let radiation-tainted cattle live," Yoshizawa said in Namie.
The town has since asked him to submit a consent form every two weeks, or each time he seeks a renewal of permission to enter the zone.
"If I don’t file the consent form, I can't go to my farm," Yoshizawa said. "I have had no choice but to sign the form to save the lives of my cattle. It's totally unfair to restrict making the reality in the no-entry area known to the outside."
A town official explained, "We do not prohibit, but want him to inform us in advance."
"I don't think the town put the condition of the publicity restriction into the approval, and I see no need to do so," Tamotsu Baba, Namie's mayor, told The Asahi Shimbun. "That was a direction from the government's local nuclear emergency response headquarters. I have no actual authority about that."
"An official in charge conferred with the town on the conditions to enter the zone," said a public relations official of the emergency response headquarters. "That was partly because his (Yoshizawa) cattle-raising activities once caused problems for his neighbors."
"Those restrictions, including barring reporters from accompanying him, violate his basic human rights," said Kazuo Hizumi, a lawyer who is critical of the government's handling of information since the nuclear disaster.
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