TEPCO restrictions on coverage of nuclear crisis videos challenged

July 30, 2012

By HIDEAKI KIMURA/ Staff Writer

Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s plans to impose tight restrictions on reporters covering the release of videos of its meetings in the early stages of the Fukushima nuclear crisis are set to be challenged by lawyers for shareholders suing former company executives.

TEPCO, which previously refused to release the videos but backed down under government pressure, only intends to release a total of 150 hours and 30 minutes of video recorded between 6:30 p.m. on March 11, 2011 and midnight on March 15. Audio will only be available for 49 hours of that footage.

Media organizations covering the release in August will only have about 30 hours between Aug. 6 and 10 to view the footage. Each organization will only be allowed to send a single reporter and those reporters will only be able to view the videos on computers provided by TEPCO. They will be banned from bringing in cameras or recording devices.

Those conditions mean that individual reporters will only be able to view about one-fifth of the videos to be disclosed by TEPCO.

Other restrictions will be placed on the video itself. Except for high-ranking officials of the utility, the names and posts of all other individuals will be bleeped out. Name tags worn by those individuals will also be blurred to prevent their identification.

TEPCO plans to ask each reporter who applies to view the videos to sign a consent document pledging not to tape or record anything they view and not report the names of any individual related to TEPCO except for those whose names appear in the final report compiled by TEPCO's accident investigation committee.

The utility plans to bar any reporter who refuses to sign the consent form from viewing the videos.

The shareholders suing former company officials have filed a request seeking preservation of the videos as evidence in their lawsuit.

Yuichi Kaido, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said: "If they try to pass off disclosure in name only as (real) disclosure, there is a danger they could argue there is no need to preserve the videos. As a result, the truth will be buried forever."

Lawyers will submit a request to Yukio Edano, the economy minister, on July 30 asking for a revision of the conditions placed on media organizations.

Besides allowing reporters to view the videos, TEPCO also plans to release a shortened version of its video and audio to media organizations that they will be free to publish. The utility will decide what is included in that condensed version.

In an interview in July with The Asahi Shimbun, TEPCO Chairman Kazuhiko Shimokobe said: "If we do not allow the viewing of all the videos, criticism will arise."

In June, Edano said TEPCO had to be "out of their minds" not to disclose the video and put pressure on a company that is effectively being nationalized under the government's support measures to release the recordings.

By HIDEAKI KIMURA/ Staff Writer
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TEPCO's nameplate at its head office in Tokyo (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

TEPCO's nameplate at its head office in Tokyo (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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  • TEPCO's nameplate at its head office in Tokyo (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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