Southeast Asia: Media Says Sorry Over ‘Insensitive’ Japan Posts

This post is part of our special coverage Japan Earthquake 2011.

Singapore’s MediaCorp, Thailand’s The Nation, and Malaysia’s Berita Harian – all belonging to mainstream media in their respective countries – were forced to apologize to the public for publishing ‘insensitive’ articles about the Japan earthquake/tsunami disaster.

MediaCorp’s email to advertisers, sent a few hours after the Japan quake, was leaked in the internet

Screenshot of email sent by MediaCorp. From the blog of Mr. Brown

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MediaCorp owns TV network Channel NewsAsia, which is dominant in Singapore. Mr Edwin Koh, Senior Vice-President, Marketing & Sales Planning, issued this apology after the controversial email became public:

“We apologize unreservedly if we had been seen to be insensitive to the gravity of the situation. The staff concerned has been counseled to be more circumspect; we hope the public will be forgiving and we can focus our attention and efforts on the affected victims of this most unfortunate tragedy.”

The Nation, an English broadsheet in Bangkok, published this cartoon featuring the Grim Reaper immediately after the quake/tsunami tragedy in Japan.

The paper apologized after readers complained about the cartoon

This is to express our sincerest apology for Tuesday paper's editorial cartoon that many find improper or insensitive due to its overzealous depiction of the tsunami as killer waves and linkage to Japan.

The Nation deeply regrets the fact that the cartoon, which followed the artist's other work in which he shared his grief with the Japanese earthquake and tsunami victims, has offended several readers.

The Nation always cherishes freedom of expression on our op-ed pages. However, every issue is different in nature and we promise to treat each properly, with full ethics and professionalism.

The cartoonist, Stephff (Stephane Peray), also apologized

As the author of the cartoon published on Tuesday, March 15 in The Nation, I would like to sincerely apologise to all readers of The Nation, especially Japanese readers, if the image caused offence.

Any offence caused was totally unintended as I always try to be careful when I draw about natural catastrophies. I did this particular cartoon in a hurry after The tsunami on Friday and we weren't quite aware of the full extent of the tragedy at that time. The Grim Reaper is not meant to be understood as a humorous character and is often used in editorial cartoons in the West to signify a tragedy involving loss of life. But I quite agree that on this occasion this cartoon was inappropriate and something softer should have been used. Once again I apologise to those who felt hurt by this cartoon and particularly to the Japanese expatriates in Thailand. No insensitivity was ever intended.

The cartoon published by Malaysian paper Berita Harian featuring the Japanese TV icon Ultraman immediately generated criticism in the internet

The paper apologized on its social network sites

“We apologise for the publication of the cartoon in Berita Minggu. We had no intention of poking fun at the disaster that has befallen the nation of Japan and its people.

“In fact, we greatly sympathise with their plight and share the sorrow of the Japanese people,”

A petition was circulated by Malaysian netizens condemning the cartoon. Blogger universal, from Malaysia, thinks that an apology is not enough

How other country is going to view us when they pick up this news?! Tasteless and absolutely pathetic!! Poking fun at people's misfortune is not funny at all, and make urself like a dumb clown.

An apology is not good enough. People have to learn how to be accountable for their wrong doing and not be protected all the time. This is a very serious mistake; it is insulting to the Japanese and also brings shame to the whole nation.

The ‘Tao’ of Teoism, from Singapore, is not satisfied with the apology issued by MediaCorp

It is a sad, opportunistic and demeaning email that was send over the approval of their marketing team, and THIS IS THE BEST APOLOGY THEY CAN COME OUT WITH? You probably hanged a junior staff member out to dry, while conveniently ignoring the fact that such emails have to go out with the approval of the senior management? I can't believe that an email like this was not vetted by management before release. Shouldn't their management be held accountable too? In other countries, the manager in charge of this will probably have been demoted or sacked but cos this this high and mighty Mediacorp, the only action taken is “counseling for the staff concerned?” WTF is this???

Life in rural Thailand notes that in the past, newspaper editors would not be quick to apologize over similar matters

I think people get confused with the word cartoon. Some people think all cartoons are meant to be funny. They are not. A cartoon drawing can also represent current public figures or issues symbolically.

One thing I am know is that you can never please everybody in the newspaper game, never ever. Editors these days are too quick to apologise and pander to the whim of politicians and social commentators. In my day we would only ever apologise if we got the facts wrong. These two papers I just mentioned did not get the facts wrong, they simply showed the facts in a different format – but were they really that insensitive?

The Lost Boy criticizes The Nation

The Nation is often criticized. I regularly lay into some of the WTFs that grace the paper's FUBAR-laden website, but I don't think anything has ever made me question The Nation's integrity like this editorial cartoon from yesterday.

This post is part of our special coverage Japan Earthquake 2011.

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