Sensationalist coverage


Tokyo has become a ghost town resembling a zombie movie, with no food, fuel or water. Millions are being poisoned by radiation from the stricken Fukushima plant.

So says the Sunnewspaper this week, one of many foreign publications accused of scaremongering and distracting from the struggle to help nearly half a million refugees in the northeast.

Headlined: “Get Out of Tokyo Now: Nightmare Warning to Brits as Crisis Worsens.” The Sun’s story criticised the British embassy in Tokyo for not evacuating its nationals from the capital.

The story was prompted by news this week that France had offered free flights to its citizens to flee the capital.

Britain said yesterday it has chartered flights from Tokyo to Hong Kong in response to the crisis.

Another Sunstory carried quotes by ex-pats in the city who described “deserted streets” with food, water and fuel running out. Mother-of-two Keely Fujiyama, who is married to a Japanese national, said the city resembled a ghost town: “It’s like London in the zombie movie 28 Days Later.” The claim was news to most residents of Tokyo, where, despite power cuts and some shortages, millions of people have been going to work, shopping for food and drinking in bars.

One of Japan’s best-known foreign TV personalities felt strongly enough about the coverage this week to post a YouTube video pleading with the overseas media to “stop stirring up hysteria” about what is happening in the country.

“You’re freaking out the foreign community in Japan and it is taking people’s efforts from where they need to be placed, which is up north,” said Daniel Kahl, who has been in Japan for 30 years.

Japan’s foreign ministry (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) has already rebuked the foreign diplomatic community for exaggerating the crisis in Fukushima.

Washington Postcommentator Paul Blustein also wrote a piece this week, warning that the flood of sensationalist stories about Tokyo could scare people away from the country and hamper the relief effort.

“My wife, who is Japanese, has been brushing away tears night after night as she watches televised interviews of people from the stricken coastal areas. Their anguish is the proper focus of attention.”