Case Number: 3086

Council Meeting: AUGUST 2021

Verdict: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: Stuff

Ruling Categories: Cartoons


Haruki Takahashi complained about a cartoon by Tom Scott published by Stuff on July 7, 2021. The cartoon depicted a man using chopsticks to pick up morsels of food in the shape of Covid-19 virus cells, and carried the wordsThings to avoid in a Tokyo sushi-train.

The complainant said the cartoon was racist and liable to spread hate. He believed it breached Media Council Principle 7 (discrimination and diversity).

Principle 7 states that issues of gender, religion, minority groups, sexual orientation, age, race, colour or physical or mental disability are legitimate subjects for discussion where they are relevant and in the public interest, and publications may report and express opinions in these areas. Publications should not, however, place gratuitous emphasis on any such category in their reporting.

Cartoons are regarded as expressions of opinion. In this case the cartoonist was clearly referring to the Covid crisis that Japan was dealing with at the same time as Tokyo was hosting the Olympic Games. The sushi train was a piece of scene setting.

The cartoon was commenting on the risk of proceeding with the games despite the risks. It did not single out the Japanese people and there was no gratuitous reference to race.

There are insufficient grounds to proceed.