26 September 2023

False: Images of ‘smiling’ newscasters announcing Shinzo Abe’s death are doctored

Annie Lab obtained videos of the original broadcast and can confirm the two anchors were not smiling. The doctored images were created by a photo editing app for mobile devices called FaceApp.


A Weibo post claimed on July 10 that many Japanese felt happy about the death of Shinzo Abe, the former prime minister of Japan who was assassinated on July 8, with images of two news anchors with a grin.

It also had another image of TV interviews with two eyewitnesses in school uniforms, describing them as “passersby with smiling eyes.”

Similar claims were found on other Weibo posts and Chinese websites like 6park and Meinews. These posts together had over 2,600 likes and 300 reposts at the time of writing.

However, these claims are false. The images of two newscasters were manipulated to make them look like they were smiling.

The interviews with the two eyewitnesses, whose faces were covered with surgical masks, took place soon after the shooting, hours before the announcement of Abe’s death. In the interview, they described what they saw without obvious emotional expressions.

Annie Lab found the original videos of the two news programs anchored by the two presenters and the interview video with the two eyewitnesses. We can confirm that all claims are unsubstantiated.

How doctored images were made

A FaceApp watermark is barely visible among multiple watermarks of other Weibo users.

The fabricated images are made by a photo and video editing app for mobile devices called FaceApp, which is known for its AI aging filter.

Although the watermark inserted by the app was covered with multiple other watermarks of Weibo users, it was still visible in the lower right corner (image above).

We created a demonstration video to show how fake images were produced using FaceApp below:

Image of male anchor Daijiro Enami

The source material for the male anchor image was taken from Fuji News Network’s program called Live News it!.

The original broadcast uploaded by FNN on its official YouTube account, which was available until July 15 before being taken down, shows the anchor, Daijiro Enami, announcing Abe’s death on July 8.

The YouTube video was screen captured by China Fact Check (below) and the video is still available there at the time of writing.

China Fact Check captured the moment in the original broadcast.

Although this is a clean version without the air time in the top left corner, Annie Lab can confirm that this was the source material because the identical footage was posted by a TikTok user who filmed the live broadcast on TV with the superimposed time showing 5:47 p.m. in Japan.

The unaltered screen capture of this particular moment was also uploaded by many internet users on Weibo (also this and this) as well as Twitter (also this).

Comparison of the misleading Weibo post with unaltered images of the TV newscast found on Weibo and Twitter.

Image of female anchor Kana Nakayama

The second image shows a news anchor from another TV station, Japan’s public broadcaster NHK, also confirming the death of Abe on the same day around the same time.

This news segment was still available through the NHK Plus on-demand streaming service as of this writing as seen in the video below.

This particular moment has also been captured by many internet users and unaltered images of the newscaster Kana Nakayama were included in many tweets (such as this, this, this, and this).

Images of two eyewitnesses being interviewed

The misleading Weibo post claimed the two students who were interviewed by NHK at the scene smiled on air.

Although it is debatable if anyone has “smiling eyes,” this segment was also available on NHK Plus and Annie Lab can say there was no expression of any emotion in spoken words.

The original broadcast was also posted by a Twitter user, and in the video, the two eyewitnesses described how the gunman approached the former prime minister and shot him.

It is clear from this news report that people at the scene had no idea how serious Abe’s conditions were at the time because it was filmed right after the shooting took place.

Abe was shot at around 11:30 a.m. and this recorded interview was already airing at 12:14 p.m., which contradicts the claim about smiling over his death.

In Japanese, noon can be described as zero hour in the afternoon, as seen in this NHK footage.

Abe was pronounced dead shortly after 5 p.m. on the same day and his death was made known to the media about 40 minutes later.

In China, his death triggered a wave of reactions. While President Xi Jinping expressed condolences, many Chinese appeared to be celebrating the assassination online and offline, according to various news reports.

Abe was known for pushing the revision of Article 9 of the country’s constitution, known as the “peace clause” that denounces military aggression. Many Chinese regarded his political move as a sign of a renewed effort to militarize the nation.

He also drew the ire of China in 2013 when he visited the controversial Yasukuni Shrine where war criminals were honored.

Taiwan FactCheck Center, MyGoPen and HKBU Fact Check also fact-checked this claim.

The post on Weibo we investigated was eventually edited on July 12 and the doctored images were removed, although the same images are still available online elsewhere.

[Update on 23 Aug. 2022: We have created a video (below) to discuss the process we have gone through]