False posts claim 'Japanese anchor smiled while reporting former PM Abe's death'

·3 min read

Shortly after Japan's former prime minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated while on the campaign trail, a photo circulated in multiple Chinese-language social media posts that claim it shows a Japanese news anchor smiling as he announced the politician's death. In fact, the photo has in fact been digitally altered. The Japanese anchor did not smile at any point in the original news segment, which aired on July 8, 2022. The anchor's Japanese television station told AFP it did not air any such broadcast after Abe's death.

The photo was shared in a post on Weibo on July 9, 2022.

A Japanese-language chyron in the photo translates to English as: "Breaking news: shot by former maritime self-defence force officer, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe confirmed dead."

The post's caption, written in simplified Chinese characters, reads: "Reporting news about #ShinzoAbeDeath, this host's expression, really isn't appropriate. Fortunately, that is Japanese media, and it has nothing to do with us. If a Chinese host had this expression, even Chinese people would criticise them to death before anyone else does so."

A screenshot, taken on July 12, of the misleading post.

Abe was delivering a stump speech at a campaign rally in Japan's western Nara region on July 8 when he was shot twice by a man, later identified as 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami. He died hours after the shooting.

The image of the Japanese anchor appearing to smile while announcing his death was also shared alongside a similar claim on Twitter and Weibo; as well as on Chinese and Taiwanese discussion forums NetEase and Dcard.

However, the photo has been digitally altered.

Reverse image and keyword searches on Google found the original news report by Japanese local broadcaster Fuji Television Network on its Live News it! show on July 8.

Host Daijiro Enami -- an anchor for the show since October 2020 -- can be seen announcing Abe's death.

Both his clothing and the chyron in the doctored image correspond to the original July 8 news report.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the doctored image in the misleading post (left) and the Fuji Television news report (right):

A screenshot comparison of the doctored image in the misleading post (left) and the news report (right). 

Enami does not smile at any point in the report, which later cuts to footage of Abe delivering a speech.

Screenshots of different moments in the LiveNews! report, taken on July 15, 2022.

In the original report, Enami says: "Former PM Abe was shot while campaigning on the street in Nara this morning and was treated at a hospital in the Nara Prefecture after showing no pulse.

"According to multiple sources, at 05:03 pm, his death was confirmed."

Fuji Television Network spokesperson Hiroshi Yamada told AFP that the misleading posts had shared a "fake" image.

"It was not broadcast by our company," he said. "We can't overlook the fact that such malicious fake [images] are circulating. We have already made a request for deletion."

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