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Op-Ed: Filmmaker who documents Taiji dolphin drives detained in Osaka

By Elizabeth Batt     Feb 13, 2014 in Environment
Osaka - BBC filmmaker and personal friend Martyn Stewart has been detained at Kansai Airport in Osaka on his way to document the dolphin drives that take place in Taiji, Japan. Stewart, known for his powerful filming, is being accused of eco-terrorism.
The filmmaker and producer of compelling short documentaries such as "Dawn to Death," wrote several hours ago on his Facebook page:
I am locked in a cell room at Osaka airport waiting on an appeal to the high minister regarding my entry into Japan. I'm accused of being sea shepherd and an Eco terrorist, my footage is not liked in Japan apparently and have been accused of assaulting members of the public.
In 4 years of being here for the dolphins I have maintained the law and abided by their rules. My words and pictures did the rest. The government of Japan will do anything to protect the rights of the fishermen of Taiji and the barbaric treatment of the animals involved.
Please share far and wide to bring awareness to this corrupt government and those that want to continue to brutally treat these amazing animals. The condition I'm in and the treatment I have received is nothing short of criminal.
Stewart left for Japan yesterday — a trip he makes every year as part of an ongoing campaign to shed light on the annual dolphin massacre that occurs in Taiji between September and March every year.
Stewart reported that Japanese authorities had put forth "racist reasons for my deportation from Japan." His latest update which was posted just four hours ago, said:
I am freezing cold, 3 bananas and tired out, it is as though I have killed someone, no pillow, no bedding, no towel to dry myself with. They look through the hole in the door every 15-30 minutes to see what I'm doing, this is corruption and lies, they are going on the words of people who have set up a website about me that I'm an Eco terrorist and trouble maker, they claim that I am Sea Shepherd and have pictures of me standing on the cove with them.
I told them I was one of 3 independents that day, Mike Lorden and Kim Flaherty were the other two, they do not believe me and claim I'm a trouble maker even though I have never been arrested, or spoken to about my behavior! I have been spat at, I had a knife held to my chin, saw Rosie Kunneke (an SSCS Cove Guardian) threatened by fishermen, yet I'm a terrorist!!!
He has posted no new updates since then.
Taiji and the Cove
Racism is a term frequently banded about in Taiji, but Stewart is no racist. He is simply a passionate animal lover. In fact, in response to a recent assumption by activists that a captured dolphin committed suicide, Stewart was quick to reject the claims:
The idea that the mother killed herself after the young albino dolphin was taken from her is pure speculation. It would be near impossible to follow the mother amongst 200 plus dolphins. This is pure fabrication and unfair to raise emotions.... This is purely sensationalism and totally unfounded. To actually say the albino was blind and deaf is another ridiculous statement to make without examination. This was claimed from a viewing point on top of a hill with a small gap to look through.... I do not consider this honest reporting..... Keeping it real............
In defense of the Faroese people who also drive in whales and dolphins to slaughter, Stewart was quick to defend those who don't partake in the activity:
I dislike the killing of any animal but NOT all the Faroese are involved in this. Rage all you like but don't tar the land with the same brush.
It is a philosophy Stewart also extends to the people of Japan and fellow Japanese activists. Stewart recognizes that without Japanese support, dolphin hunting in Taiji will never stop. And while the animal advocate is vocal on animal issues, he is vocal globally, from the roundup of wild horses to wolf preservation.
Taiji is a complicated place. With so many activists on the ground and limited viewpoints for filming and reporting, those monitoring the dolphin drives are pushed together out of necessity, rather than choice. It is a convenient excuse for Japanese authorities to, as Stewart said, "tar everybody with the same brush."
The town's authorities are also under additional pressure due to increased media reporting and foreign political intervention. After Caroline Kennedy, the US Ambassador to Japan, recently tweeted out her condemnation of the hunts, tension in Taiji has escalated.
Stewart, appears to be bearing the brunt of that.
Kerry O'Brien, a friend of Stewart's, is a marine mammal medic who has been at the Cove both independently and as a Cove Monitor with Ric O'Barry's Dolphin Project. She expressed her concern over Stewart's plight and called his detainment strange. "He has never broken the law," she told me, "and he behaves ... his work is powerful though."
Stewart travels the world to report on his experiences in Taiji, and always works independent of any organization. The sound recordist captures unique footage that strikes at the heart of everyone who views it. The compelling video below leaves little to the imagination and was compiled from footage taken over a three-year period. It offers a gut-wrenching view of the six-month-long slaughter.
Stewart meanwhile, has issued a plea for intervention:
This needs to get out to the networks while we have momentum, if you can post as much as possible to them, who knows! We will lose our standing here in Taiji eventually, and then the dolphins will have nothing but extinction.
Fellow friends and activists are responding in force. An ongoing media tweetstorm has been established via social media. In four years of trouble-free reporting, the BBC filmmaker's detention can only be viewed as circumspect and politically driven.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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