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Japan network NHK pulls US protest anime in racism row


TOKYO (AFP) -- Japan's national broadcaster NHK Tuesday apologised and deleted an animation depicting Black Lives Matter protests in the US after widespread complaints of racism -- including from the US embassy and tennis star Naomi Osaka.

NHK's animation, aired Sunday, told viewers that the coronavirus pandemic had fuelled anger amongst African Americans, many of whom lost jobs, but failed to mention the death of George Floyd or police brutality.

The one-minute-20-second clip showed caricatures of black-skinned figures looting stores and angrily occupying an urban street as they protested against the wealth divide in the country.

The video, aired on a weekly news-variety show that discusses major news events in a lighthearted fashion, was quickly condemned online as racist and inaccurate, with a Twitter hashtag "I protest against NHK."

"I felt sick when I watched it. No love or respect to human beings. It's too awful," said one Japanese Twitter user.

"The video looked like (NHK) made fun of black people fighting for their rights in the US," wrote another.

Joseph M. Young, a senior official at the US Embassy in Tokyo, tweeted:

"It's unfortunate that more thought and care didn't go into this video... The caricatures used are offensive and insensitive."

Former world number one Naomi Osaka, who has recently taken to Twitter in support of the protests, tweeted a GIF to show her incomprehension.

NHK said in a statement the animation lacked "consideration" and apologised "to those who were offended."

"The CG animation was designed to explain the harsh reality of black people in the US in a way that is easy to understand," it said.

"However, we have decided to stop posting this animation after receiving criticism that it does not accurately show the reality of the problem," the channel added.

Critics also attacked the accuracy of tweets from the programme's official account attempting to explain the US protests.

One of them, which said "US society was deeply divided as two sides with different opinions swore at each other", received more than 300 replies -- many saying it was wrong.

Hundreds of people took to the streets of Tokyo and Osaka last weekend in support of the Black Lives Matter protests. (AFP)

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