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The international media should hang their collective heads in shame at the way they’ve reported the unfolding tragedy in Japan. It’s an old cliche, but now that I live on the other side of the fence, it seems all the more clear: The media are willing to whip up more panic and put more people in danger through sensationalist reporting as long as it sells. They think nothing of throwing around biblical hyperbole like “apocalypse” and “mass exodus.” When they were thrown a bone as meaty as the nuclear plant crisis — something very few people understand but many fear — they must have smelled blood.

Worst of all, the reporting has put the focus entirely on the Fukushima nuclear plant. As worrisome as the issue is, it has been completely blown out of proportion, with talk of meltdown and massive destruction. The tragedy is that the victims of the earthquake and tsunami are all but forgotten at times. While the world turns away to ponder its own nuclear policies — which, for better or for worse, are far from urgent — people are starving and dying after having survived the disaster itself.

The nuclear plant story is exciting and dramatic and is easy to exaggerate, but it will quickly wear thin as the plant cools and the international public realizes that the fears were deliberately whipped up. By then, it could be far too late for many survivors.

peter leonard

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