By Yow Hong Chieh
KUALA LUMPUR, March 13 — Berita Harian was forced to apologise today for publishing a cartoon poking fun at the recent tsunami in Japan after Malaysians rounded on the paper for its “tasteless” move.
In a note posted on its Facebook fan page at about 2pm, the Malay daily apologised for publishing a caricature depicting popular Japanese superhero Ultraman frantically trying to outrun an incoming tsunami.
“We never meant to make fun of the disaster which has struck the country, and we deeply sympathise and share in sadness with the people of Japan,” it read.
Berita Harian group editor Mior Kamarul Shahid also expressed regret for the oversight and personally apologised on his Twitter account.
Malaysians were quick to take to micro-blogging site Twitter and Facebook to express their disgust over the cartoon published earlier today, with some calling for a boycott of the paper.
Prominent politicians slammed Berita Harian, with Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin urging the paper to apologise for the “completely insensitive” cartoon on his Twitter account.
“It is highly unfortunate that the tsunami cartoon was published right below [Berita Harian’s] group editor’s column itself,” he wrote.
Others also started an online petition demanding that the Umno-controlled newspaper apologise for its bad taste.
News of the cartoon and Berita Harian’s subsequent apology was also picked up by CNN's iReport, the international news network's weekly citizen journalism programme, after a Malaysian submitted a piece on it.
Friday’s massive tsunami was the result of an 8.9-magnitude earthquake off the coast of Miyagi prefecture.
The tsunami has so far claimed 1,300 lives but Japanese officials are expecting the death toll to rise to at least 10,000 despite ongoing rescue efforts.
Hundred of thousands have also been made homeless.
Authorities are now concerned about radiation leaking from two nuclear reactors in Fukushima, which are said to be close to meltdown.