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Article Released Sun-15th-April-2007 20:37 GMT
Contact: Center for Research Promotion Institution: Keio University
 International Newspaper Coverage of the 60th Anniversary of the Hiroshima Bombing

August 6, 2005, was the 60th anniversary of the explosion of an atomic bomb over Hiroshima. This study investigated the ways in which major newspapers around the world memorialised the event. 4 different frames emerged - route to salvation/war-ender, an atrocity/holocaust, both salvation and atrocity, deserved punishment for Japan

Title of paper: Editorial Reflections on Historical/Diplomatic Relations with Japan and the U.S.: International Newspaper Coverage of the 60th Anniversary of the Hiroshima Bombing

Authors: Yasuhiro INOUE* and Carol RINNERT**
** Carol RINNERT is a professor in International Studies at Hiroshima City University.
* Yasuhiro INOUE is an associate professor in International Studies at Hiroshima City University.


August 6, 2005, was the 60th anniversary of the explosion of an atomic bomb over Hiroshima. This study investigated the ways in which major newspapers around the world memorialised the event. Even a cursory comparison of international newspaper coverage reveals conflicting views of the event. The data for the study consist of articles published between August 5 and August 8, 2005, in newspapers in 12 countries/regions around the world. The study conducted a qualitative content and frame analysis focused on major themes and descriptions emphasized in the articles. The ultimate goal of this study is to understand the extent the coverage overlap, and in what ways they differ and why. The results of this study may help to provide a basis for more effective future dissemination of the message of peace that Hiroshima has dedicated itself to proclaiming to the world.

The following specific research questions were addressed

(1) How was the act of dropping the bomb framed (e.g., as a justifiable means of ending the war, as a war crime) and/or compared to other similar events (e.g., as having less significance, the same significance as compared to such atrocities as the holocaust)?

(2) To what extent were the readers informed of the horrible aftermath and delayed effects of radiation on the victims of the bombing?

(3) Was the morality of the action of dropping the atomic bomb questioned?

(4) Was the event presented as only a past event, or said (or implied) to be a significant lesson that should be passed on to future generations?

(5) What factors appear to be related to the differing portrayals of the Hiroshima bombing?

A total of 60 newspaper articles whose themes concerned the Hiroshima atomic bombing were selected from major newspapers from 12 countries/regions (Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, the U.K., and the U.S., and the Arabic language newspaper: Asharq Al-Awsat). The paper were selected according to their prestige and availability.

The papers were: The New York Times (US), The Wall Street Journal (US), The Times (UK), Financial Times (UK), The Australian (AU), The Globe & Mail (CA), People’s Daily (CN), South China Morning Post (HG), Le Monde (FR), Frankfurter Allgemeine (DE), The Dong-A Ilbo (KR), Izvestya (RU), The Straits Times (SG), Bangkok Post (TH) and Asharq Al-Awsat (representing Arabic Language newpapers)

A detailed analysis of the newpapers are given in the paper including coverage space, editorials, interesting quotations, graphical depictions, moral considerations, significance to future generations and much more.

In general, the authors identified 4 different ways in which the Hiroshima bombing was presented:

1) That the bombing was a route to salvation/war-ender
2) That the bombing was an atrocity/holocaust
3) That the bombing was both salvation and atrocity
4) That the bombing was deserved punishment for Japan

Of the four, the second was the most frequent and the third and fourth were equally least frequent. The paper gives detailed explanation by country for each of the stances above. A brief summary of each is given below:

1) Hiroshima as Saviour
The newspaper coverage in three countries unequivocally portrayed the bombing as a justified action that saved many lives and ended the war: the U.S., Russia, and Canada.

2) Hiroshima as Atrocity
Newspapers in a total of six countries/regions were found to frame the event as an atrocity comparable to the holocaust or a terrorist act: the U.K., France, Germany, Hong Kong, Thailand, and the Arabic region.

3) Hiroshima as both Justified and Questionable Action
Two countries (Australia and Singapore) presented a more ambivalent, mixed stance, seemingly accepting the first frame of a justified means of ending the war, but also introducing other motivations for the act, including the goal of establishing U.S. superiority for the coming cold war.

4) Hiroshima as Deserved Punishment
Finally, the coverage in two countries framed the bombing as a just punishment for Japan’s war crimes: China and Korea.

Many factors can be seen to underlie these portrayals, including public opinion, ideology, historical relations, and current political events, including the present U.S. Middle Eastern policy and world hegemony. Although newspapers in a few countries appeared to have little interest in memorializing the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing, almost all of those surveyed published several articles and pictures, and a majority included graphic depictions of the bomb’s effects on the victims, raised moral issues associated with the bombing, and argued for the necessity of conveying the message of Hiroshima to future generations. Thus, it can be concluded that a majority, either directly or indirectly, conveyed appreciation for the importance of Hiroshima’s role in educating the world about the dangers of nuclear warfare and helping to build peace among nations and peoples.

Please read the paper in Keio Communication Review for detailed information on the analysis of newspapers including coverage space, editorials and an in depth discussion on why the articles were framed in such manners.

Associated links

Journal information

Keio Communication Review No. 29, 2007

Funding information

This research was supported by a Hiroshima City University Grant for Special Academic Research (Studies in Designated Subjects).

Keywords associated to this article: Hiroshima, atomic bomb, nuclear, World War 2
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