'Lighten up' French mag tells Japan in Fukushima row

12th September 2013, Comments 0 comments

A French satirical weekly Thursday shrugged off Japanese outrage over cartoons mocking the decision to award the 2020 Olympics to Tokyo despite the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

Japan angrily denounced the cartoons and said it would lodge a formal complaint with Le Canard Enchaine.

But the popular weekly said it took "responsibility for the cartoons without the slightest soul-searching" and complained that the Japanese lacked a sense of humour.

One cartoon showed sumo wrestlers with extra limbs competing in front of a crippled nuclear plant. A sports commentator says: "Marvellous, thanks to Fukushima, sumo wrestling has become an Olympic sport."

Another image showed two people standing in front of a pool of water while wearing nuclear protection suits and holding a Geiger counter, saying water sport facilities had already been built at Fukushima.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the satirical jabs give the wrong impression about the country.

The government has repeatedly claimed the accident and its waste water problem are under control and should not affect the Olympics.

Japan is traditionally sensitive to opinions about it expressed in foreign media and has been angered that a crisis that brought such human tragedy has become the subject of caricature.

"These kinds of satirical pictures hurt the victims of the disaster," Suga told a news conference.

"This kind of journalism gives the wrong impression about the waste water problem," he said.

The government will officially lodge a protest with the French weekly, Suga said.

Canard Enchaine's chief editor Louis-Marie Horeau said: "Just because we are being humourous does not mean we are insulting the victims. Here (in France) we can tackle tragedy with humour and apparently that's not the case in Japan."

Horeau said the magazine was "absolutely stupefied" by the reaction to "cartoons which seem to us to be anodyne".

The incident comes after a similar case less than a year ago in which French media made light of the nuclear disaster and its effects.

France's TV channel France 2's "We're not lying" programme showed a doctored photo of Eiji Kawashima, the goalkeeper of the Japanese national football squad, with four arms.

The show explained that it was the "Fukushima effect" that had allowed Kawashima to keep goal so effectively in Japan's shock defeat of France.

The station later expressed its regret for the gag and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius reportedly apologised.

While no one is officially recorded as having died as a direct result of the radiation released by the triple meltdowns at Fukushima, tens of thousands of people were forced to leave their homes. Many may never be able to return.

Unlike many European countries, Japan does not have a vigorous tradition of satire. Its cultural emphasis on the importance of social harmony also discourages public ridiculing of others.

© 2013 AFP

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