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Sankei issues apology, retracts erroneous articles on 'heroic' US Marine in Okinawa

An article about the Sankei Shimbun newspaper's criticism of Okinawa's Ryukyu Shimpo and Okinawa Times newspapers based on erroneous information appeared in the Jan. 30 edition of the Ryukyu Shimpo, pictured here on Feb. 6, 2018. (Mainichi)

The Sankei Shimbun newspaper issued an apology on the front page of its Feb. 8 morning edition for having published unconfirmed -- and later discredited -- information regarding a traffic accident involving U.S. Marine Corps personnel in Okinawa Prefecture, and criticizing two main local newspapers for not thoroughly reporting on it.

In addition, the Sankei retracted articles it published in its Dec. 9 online edition and its Dec. 12 morning edition last year. The Sankei had reported that a U.S. Marine rescued a Japanese civilian who'd been in an accident just before the Marine was run over by a car himself, leaving him in a coma, and that the Ryukyu Shimpo and the Okinawa Times, which did not report on the Marine's "heroic actions," brought "shame to the Japanese people."

"We used excessive expressions in criticizing the attitudes of the Ryukyu Shimpo and the Okinawa Times toward reporting," the Sankei's apology said. "We apologize to the two companies and our readers."

The accident took place in the early hours of Dec. 1 last year on the Okinawa Expressway in the city of Okinawa. A U.S. Marine master sergeant was run over by a vehicle driven by a different Marine and sustained major injuries, including a fractured skull.

According to the Sankei's review of how the erroneous coverage unfolded, its Naha Bureau chief obtained information that the actions of a heroic sergeant were being praised online. After checking the Facebook page of the U.S. Marine's wife and seeing a U.S. television broadcaster's report of the incident, the bureau chief contacted the U.S. Marine Corps, but did not interview the Okinawa Prefectural Police.

The Ryukyu Shimpo on Jan. 30 published remarks by a U.S. military official denying that the Marine had rescued the Japanese citizen, after which the Sankei bureau chief interviewed the U.S. Marine Corps again. The reporter was told that there was nothing to confirm that the injured Marine had rescued a Japanese civilian.

In the apology, the Sankei included a comment from Masato Inui, executive editor of the paper's Tokyo office, which said, "We will put even more of our efforts into thoroughly educating our reporters to prevent a recurrence, and at the same time, review our process of approving articles for publication in order to improve our credibility. We offer our deepest apologies to those who were involved in the accident, the Ryukyu Shimpo, the Okinawa Times, and our readers."

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