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TEPCO continues imposing media restraint

August 2, 2012


TEPCO still limiting media coverage of in-house footage taken shortly after nuke accident



Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) is sticking to its media restrictions for news coverage of footage of teleconferences it held immediately after the outbreak of the crisis at its tsunami-hit Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant in March 2011.

Despite protests from news organizations and freelance journalists, TEPCO has refused to change its stance.

TEPCO has offered to show its video footage of teleconferences on the nuclear crisis, mainly those between its headquarters and the crippled nuclear plant, from March 11 to 15, to news organizations from Aug. 6.

The utility will show footage totaling about 150 hours, which is stored on a computer at a conference room at the TEPCO headquarters in Tokyo, to journalists on condition that they not film or record any part of the images or identify individual employees except executives. However, it will allow reporters to take notes on the video images.

The power supplier warns that any violators will be asked to leave the office and may be even banned from attending future news conferences organized by the firm.

Initially, TEPCO had offered to allow only one person from each news organization to view the video between Aug. 6 and 10, totaling about 30 hours. At the instruction of Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano, however, the company extended the period to Sept. 7 and decided to allow up to two reporters each at major news organizations to view the footage.

On Aug. 1, the utility finished accepting applications for viewing on Aug. 6 and 7 because it feared it would be flooded with applications for these first two days. From Aug. 8, however, the company will allow news organizations to view the video on the same days they file applications.

TEPCO's public relations department said it has no choice but to ban news media from filming or recording the footage for privacy concerns. "If individual employees were identified by their voices, they could be personally criticized and their families and others around them could be subjected to abuse."

The Mainichi Shimbun urges TEPCO to retract its policy of banning news organizations from recording the footage and even from reporting the contents of footage it obtains through its own news coverage activities.

Keiichi Katsura, former professor of news media at Rissho University, criticized TEPCO's policy of press restraints.

"All members of the public are parties concerned with the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant accident. Therefore, the recording of the teleconferences should be viewed as public property. It's wrong for TEPCO to enforce press restraints to suit its own convenience," Katsura said.

"TEPCO should rather proactively disclose the footage in order to contribute to clarifying the cause of the accident. How to report the details of the footage should be left to the discretion of each news organization," he said.

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