” TOKYO (Kyodo) — A panel appointed by The Asahi Shimbun to review its reporting concluded on Wednesday that the newspaper’s May scoop on testimony by the late chief of the disaster-hit Fukushima nuclear plant contained “major errors,” endorsing the daily’s retraction of the report earlier.
The major Japanese daily issued an apology to workers of Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Fukushima Prefecture and other people, and said it will take disciplinary action against those responsible for the report within this month.
Based on the then classified testimony by Masao Yoshida, who was heading the plant when the six-reactor facility was crippled by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the newspaper reported in a May 20 scoop that 90 percent of workers had withdrawn from the damaged plant by violating his order for them to stay put.
But on Sept. 11, the newspaper retracted the report after concluding that it misinterpreted the plant chief’s testimony, which had been compiled for a government panel examining the Fukushima meltdowns, noting that the testimony showed Yoshida had not seen the workers’ action as a violation of his order.
The daily’s Press and Human Rights Committee, consisting of a university professor, a former Supreme Court justice and a former executive of public broadcaster NHK, said “no fact existed to make the evaluation that workers were ‘violating plant manager order'” and that no news gathering was pursued to corroborate such an evaluation.
The panel criticized the report for lacking Yoshida’s comment in the same testimony that he had felt after all that the workers were right about deciding to move to another nuclear power plant nearby that had escaped severe damage.
The omission amounted to a failure on the part of the newspaper, whose mission is to provide readers with fair and accurate information, it said.
The panel also said the report contained a conjecture by the writer who wrote it, and that only two reporters had read the testimony just before the report was published.
As to the newspaper’s failure to respond to growing criticism and questions raised about the report in the following weeks and months, the panel said a “lack of a sense of crisis” led to no proper or immediate response and resulted in a loss of trust in the newspaper.
Tadakazu Kimura, president of The Asahi Shimbun, suggested at a press conference in September that he would resign from the post to take responsibility for the scandal. He has since indicated that he would announce his resignation in the middle of this month.
Yoshida’s 400-page testimony was reflected in the final panel report compiled in July 2012 along with testimonies from more than 770 others. Yoshida died of esophageal cancer in July 2013 at age 58. ”