Broadcaster expresses regret after attributing Japanese goalkeeper's impressive performance to the 'Fukushima effect'
A French broadcaster has apologised after showing a composite picture of Japan's national football team goalkeeper with four arms, prompting a presenter to attribute the extra limbs to the "Fukushima effect".
France 2 said it regretted using the image, which had been intended to complement Eiji Kawashima's impressive performance in Japan's 1-0 victory over France in a friendly last week.
In a statement to the Japanese embassy in Paris, France 2's director, Jean Reveillon, apologised to the Japanese people but said the image had not meant to cause offence to them or those affected by last year's triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
"We are deeply sorry for having hurt your fellow citizens. [The presenter] Laurent Ruquier did not want to be disrespectful to Japan and the Fukushima victims," Reveillon said.
"In this humorous or satirical programme, our presenter was mostly trying to mock the French football team. In any case, given the emotions that this has sparked, France 2 presents its regrets and reaffirms our friendship to the Japanese people."
Japan had lodged a protest over the image, which appeared as Ruquier, the host of a variety show, attributed a string of saves by Kawashima to the "Fukushima effect", prompting laughter and applause in the studio.
The chief cabinet secretary, Osamu Fujimura, called Ruquier's remark "inappropriate, while Japan's education minister, Makiko Tanaka, accused the presenter of "lacking sensitivity". She said: "Many people were hurt in the nuclear crisis. I don't know how people can make fun of it."
The Fukushima nuclear crisis was triggered by last year's magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami along Japan's north-east coast, which killed more than 15,000 people and left almost 3,000 others unaccounted for.
Radiation leaks forced the evacuation of 150,000 people living near the nuclear plant, most of whom are still unable to return home.
The French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, repeated the apology during a meeting with his Japanese counterpart, Koichiro Gemba, in Paris on Tuesday.
Kawashima, who plays for the Belgian club Standard Liege, was targeted for abuse while playing for Lierse SK during a league fixture last year, when opposition fans chanted "Kawashima, Fukushima!"
The referee temporarily halted play following protests from the player, who was reportedly in tears after the match.