Malaysia paper apologises over tsunami cartoon

KUALA LUMPUR, March 14, 2011 (AFP) - A Malaysian newspaper publicly apologised Monday after it triggered uproar with a cartoon depicting the popular Japanese icon Ultraman running away from an oncoming tsunami.

The Malay-language Berita Harian, one of Malaysia's main dailies, drew heavy criticism, especially on social networking websites, after it published the cartoon on Sunday on its comment page.

"We do not intend to be insensitive or to poke fun at last Friday's incident," the paper said in a front-page apology Monday, adding that it was "very sympathetic" to the plight of the Japanese people.

Malaysians had launched online petitions to pressure the paper to apologise, while many politicians also criticised the publication.

Khairy Jamaluddin, leader of the youth wing of the ruling United Malays National Organisation, wrote on his Twitter feed that the cartoon was "totally insensitive towards the Japanese people" and asked the paper to say sorry.

Japan was rocked by a huge 8.9-magnitude earthquake on Friday, sending a 10-metre (33-foot) tsunami slamming into its Pacific coastline. More than 10,000 are feared dead.