Censorship by Yahoo! Japan

Bookmark this on Hatena Bookmark
Hatena Bookmark - Censorship by Yahoo! Japan
Share on Facebook
Post to Google Buzz
Bookmark this on Yahoo Bookmark
Bookmark this on Livedoor Clip
Share on FriendFeed
[`tweetmeme` not found]

I had an issue over the photograph I posted with my last article in Yahoo! News Japan, which is one of the hosts of my blog.

It was rejected because it showed a dead body and the page was ‘unpublicized’ immediately.  I was impressed by how fast the action took place (within a hour after my posting!) but also quite surprised by its over-sensitiveness. The photo, as you see in the previous post on this blog, shows a man lying down with a bit of blood on the ground. It’s one of the least graphic ones in my book and I didn’t think it would be so shocking or scandalous. Well, the degree of tolerance is up to each person so I won’t argue that here. What bothered me was that the editor at Yahoo! didn’t give me a chance to discuss the matter with her. Instead, she just unpublicized the whole page.

Below is a part of the email sent by the editor. I have never met the person before, and she doesn’t know me neither. Without having a discussion, the page was shut down shortly after the email was sent.

“Basically, Japanese media don’t publish pictures showing dead bodies. The photograph shows blood and a dead body directly and we are afraid it may offend our readers. I would ask you to eliminate or change the photo”

What is ‘basically’?  As far as I know, there is no such ‘basic’ rule or restriction applying to all media in Japan. I never had a problem publishing photographs which were much more graphic than this one in Japanese magazines. For television programs, I can somewhat understand the possibility of offending viewers by showing unexpected graphic images. But this is a news blog written by designated authors. Most of the readers make a conscious decision to visit my blog. Some readers may accidentally land on the page and may get shocked by the picture but even for that case, giving an advance warning message should avoid the problem.

When Yahoo! Japan asked me to contribute to its news blog, I assumed that they already knew about me and my photographs. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like the case. It seems to me that this incident is a typical example of Japanese media’s ‘Don’t make waves’ attitude to avoid any complaints from readers or viewers.

Coincidently, I just had a conversation with a Japanese journalist last week about coverage of deaths during Japan’s tsunami disaster in 2011. He told me that some television cameramen didn’t even film dead bodies in front of them because they knew the image wouldn’t be aired. I was shocked to realize how Japan’s ‘Don’t make waves’ attitude was spoiling the work of cameramen on the ground.

Even in western media, which I mostly shoot for and is more tolerant of death and blood than Japanese media, rarely use overly graphic images. But it doesn’t stop me from shooting it because I know that even if it doesn’t get published, recording the incident is an important part of our job. If you don’t photograph it, there won’t be any record when it may be needed in the future.

There have been several occasions in the past that made me think deeply about the usage of graphic images. One example was that when I had an exhibition in Japan. I insisted on displaying an image which I shot during Liberia’s civil war. It showed a little girl whose hand was torn off by mortar shrapnel. It was quite graphic but I thought it’s important to show how brutal and senseless the war can be. After the exhibition, the sponsor of the show told me that a female student got sick by looking at the photo and couldn’t proceed further to see other images. Because of one graphic photograph, I took the opportunity away from her to see other important images. This incident made me realize that my own belief and opinion don’t always translate or work as I intend. Since then, I have become much more careful about the usage of such images and I try to discuss with editors and exhibitors as much as possible so we can reach a certain agreement.

In this case with Yahoo!, the editor unilaterally took down the post without giving me an opportunity to discuss. It was quite ironic that this incident occurred in relation to the article on Mr. Sakai, who insisted on publishing these shocking images in a children’s book as he believed it to be meaningful.
















show hide 2 comments

Keisuke Togawa 僕が小学生のとき、広島長崎の原爆展でおぞましい死者の写真を観て、数日、怯えていました。すると祖父が「人にとって人がもっとも恐ろしい—わかっただろ?」。「人は人を簡単に殺せるんだ」。戦場体験者の祖父の言葉によって、僕は命の尊さを知り、冷静さを取り戻すことができました。しかし、僕は目の前で人が殺されて行くのを見たことが無いので、本当の恐ろしさを知りません。本当の恐ろしさを知ることが必要なのかどうなのかとなれば、知る必要があると思います。本当の恐ろしさとは表面的なことだけでなく内面の恐ろしさも含めてです。

Kuni Takahashi 「はだしのゲン」のことといい、いまの日本はまた戦前の風潮に逆戻りしているようで怖いですね。

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *



There was an error submitting your comment. Please try again.