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Censored: Japan Cuts Emperor Akihito's Nuclear Comments from TV

Common Dreams staff

Japan's Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo March 21, 2012. (photo: REUTERS/Koichi Kamoshida)

On the one-year anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, March 11, Japan's Emperor Akihito gave a speech at a government-sponsored memorial ceremony in Tokyo.

The emperor, who had just been released from the hospital a week earlier from a heart bypass surgery, said in his address that people who had lived in areas marked as danger zones had been forced to leave their homes and said, "In order for them to live there again safely, we have to overcome the problem of radioactive contamination, which is a formidable task."

While the address was seen in its entirety live and in the morning newspapers, The Atlantic reports that by the evening, major news programs took out his nuclear comments and made no mention of them. The Atlantic points out that social media forum quickly made note of the omission and accused networks of censorship.

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Kyodo News: Emperor Akihito offers condolences to victims of March disaster

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Emperor Akihito, who is recuperating from heart bypass surgery, offered condolences Sunday to the victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami at a government-sponsored memorial ceremony in Tokyo to mark the first anniversary of the disaster in northeastern Japan.

"I would like to express my deepest condolences for the many people who lost their lives in this earthquake," the emperor said in his speech at the ceremony held at the National Theater in central Tokyo. With Empress Michiko at his side, the royal couple observed a moment of silence at 2:46 p.m., the time the earthquake struck last year. [...]

The emperor acknowledged that due to the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, people in areas designated as the danger zone lost their homes and livelihoods when compelled to leave where they lived.

"In order for them to live there again safely, we have to overcome the problem of radioactive contamination, which is a formidable task," the emperor said.

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Michael McAteer: The Atlantic
Japan in Uproar Over Censorship of Emperor's Anti-Nuclear Speech

There is a particularly sensitive accusation reverberating through online discussion boards and social media in Japan: that Emperor Akihito's speech on the one year anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami was censored on TV for his comments about the nuclear disaster at Fukushima. [...]

["In order for them to live there again safely, we have to overcome the problem of radioactive contamination, which is a formidable task," said the emperor.]

While this statement may seem more obvious than radical to outsiders, underneath the Imperial-grade Japanese understatement were two ideas that have become quietly explosive. First, he seemed to suggest that the nuclear crisis is not over, a "formidable task" yet to be overcome. This noticeably contradicts the government's official stance that Fukushima has achieved a cold shutdown and, for all practical purposes, the crisis is over. Second, it implies that it is not yet safe for people to return to areas stricken with high levels of radiation, at least not before the "formidable task" is "overcome." This, again, contradicts the government's position that it is now safe for people to return to almost all areas and that neither Tokyo Electric Power Company nor the national government are obliged to assist in long term evacuations. [...]

[M]any Japanese were shocked when TV media began cutting out the emperor's dramatic statement. Live daytime broadcasts of the event contained the whole speech and newspapers printed it in its entirety. But, by that evening, all of the major news programs aired edited versions of the speech without his nuclear comments, which also went unmentioned and undiscussed on the heavily watches news shows. The vast majority of Japanese, who don't watch TV news during the day, missed the comments entirely.

Blogs and chat-rooms quickly filled with angry accusations that TV networks were censoring an important communication by the Emperor to his people at a time when his guidance is most sought.

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