Fury over 'Pokemon' jibe on French TV during China virus homage

French journalist's comment came during live coverage of China's day of mourning for coronavirus victims.

    A resident in Wuhan presents flowers during a silent tribute to martyrs who died from the coronavirus [Getty Images]
    A resident in Wuhan presents flowers during a silent tribute to martyrs who died from the coronavirus [Getty Images]

    A French news channel has been criticised and forced to apologise after one of its journalists was heard whispering "they are burying the Pokemons" during its coverage of China's day of mourning for coronavirus victims.

    BFMTV and its journalist Emmanuel Lechypre were lambasted as racist and "shockingly insensitive" on social media after the business reporter made the comment on Saturday over live footage of the three-minute silence observed across China.

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    Some 3,300 have died in the coronavirus pandemic in China. 

    Lechypre later apologised, saying he did not know his microphone was turned on.

    "I allowed myself to say something totally inappropriate, thinking that the microphones were off. I am very sorry."

    The channel's boss Marc-Olivier Fogiel also apologised to viewers, although it remains unclear whether Lechypre will be sanctioned.

    Many on social media called for his sacking, with others pointing out that Pokemon characters are in fact Japanese.

    On Wednesday, two French doctors were accused of racism for suggesting that a potential vaccine for coronavirus should first be tested on people in Africa.

    The Chinese homage was led by President Xi Jinping with the entire country coming to a halt as cars, trains and ships sounded their horns and air raid sirens wailed.

    Beijing said the tribute was a chance to mourn virus "martyrs" - an honorific title bestowed by the government this week on 14 medical workers who died fighting the outbreak - including the doctor who was punished by officials for raising the alarm.

    The coronavirus outbreak began in China and has gone on to infect at least 1.1 million people worldwide, bringing the global economy to a shuddering halt.

    The country now appears to be over the worst of the outbreak.

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies