Reporting on nuclear power after the deadly Kumamoto Earthquake should not stir up needless alarm, NHK President Katsuto Momii has been quoted as saying -- a comment criticized as having a "chilling effect" on coverage.
Momii reportedly made the comment during an April 20 meeting of the public broadcaster's disaster policy headquarters set up following the powerful earthquakes in Kumamoto Prefecture.
"Ongoing reporting on nuclear power plants should be based on official announcements so as not to stir up residents' anxiety unnecessarily," a source quoted him as saying in the meeting at the NHK Broadcasting Center in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward.
Momii, who serves as head of the disaster policy headquarters, also said as the meeting was wrapping up, "Although there were initial problems such as local governments not being fully equipped to handle the distribution of food and other items, the Japan Self-Defense Forces (SDF) have come on the scene and supplies are now being delivered." He then added, "I would like for this matter to be reported upon in a detailed manner, along with other aspects of providing supplies," according to the source.
The source said that the board members and bureau heads who were in attendance at the meeting did not object to Momii's comments.
The minutes of the meeting were shared via the network's intranet, prompting some to speak out in opposition. One executive commented, "This is an order wherein the president is trying to make sure that broadcasts reflect his own personal viewpoint."
Hiroyoshi Sunakawa, a professor of media theory at Rikkyo University, commented, "President (Momii) has strong authority over personnel-related matters, and if the remark (on nuclear power) was indeed made, it is a problematic statement that has a chilling effect on on-the-ground reporting."
Sunakawa added, "It could threaten independent reporting that aims to verify the appropriateness of evacuation plans in the event of a nuclear power plant accident, assuming that traffic networks would have already been disturbed due to the preceding Kumamoto earthquakes, and review the cooperation between the SDF and local governments."
Meanwhile, a public relations representative from NHK commented, "We are unable to comment regarding internal meetings. With respect to reporting on nuclear power plants, we will continue to provide correct information based upon the truth in a way so as not to cause needless anxiety among residents."