Adults in the Student Suicide Case

Examination Committee Avoiding Proxy Lawyer (14)

2023.08.10 12:50 Nanami Nakagawa

On December 6, 2022, Kyodo News launched an examination committee for reporter Yoichi Ishikawa. This was because the Nagasaki Shimbun protested to Kyodo News about Ishikawa’s book, “The Sanctuary of Bullying,” published by Bungeishunju. It was an “anonymous examination committee” that didn’t reveal even the members of the committee, including the chairman.

The examination committee notified Ishikawa to decide by 5:00 p.m. on December 9th how he was going to respond, including the submission of a written opinion.

However, the examination committee did not even disclose any information about the Nagasaki Shimbun’s protest. Ishikawa, who was not given adequate judgment material, seeks a representative lawyer with a good reputation for defending freedom of the press.

A lawyer who defends freedom of the press

Ichiro Masamura, Chief of the Chiba Bureau, is the person in charge of contacting Ishikawa from the examination committee. On December 5th, he received a letter with castella from Saori, the mother of Hayato Fukuura, who committed suicide. In her letter, she thanked Ishikawa and Kyodo News for enthusiastically reporting on Hayato’s case. Nevertheless, Masamura did not inform Ishikawa that he received a letter, and only informed him of the requests from the examination committee in rapid succession.

The email sent by Masamura at 8:23 p.m. on December 8 was to notify Ishikawa to answer the requests of the examination by 5:00 p.m. on December 9. They requested Ishilawa to notify whether he wanted to express opinions at the examination committee and to submit interview notes and recordings on the investigation. He had less than 24 hours to answer. Ishikawa was physically and mentally exhausted. Since the day after his book was published by Bungeishunju on November 10, he has received periodic communications from Kyodo News. He received calls to work and private cell phones, and emails when he couldn’t answer the phone. He had a 9-month-old baby, and the company didn’t seem to mind that he was on child-care leave.

“I can no longer hold myself.”

Ishikawa asked Yoichi Kitamura, a lawyer, to represent him. Kitamura serves as a corporate lawyer for Bungeishunju.

Kitamura has a number of achievements, including the “Courtroom Notes Lawsuit,” commonly known as the “Repeta Case,” in which he won the right to take notes in court from the Supreme Court.

Above all, he has a reputation as a lawyer who has fought to protect the freedom of the press. He fought Johnny & Associates as a lawyer for Bunshun, and it was Kitamura who had the court recognize Johnny Kitagawa’s sexual assault.

Kitamura’s views on press freedom are as follows:

“Freedom of the press is an important right guaranteed by the Constitution to realize a democratic society. We can’t be daunted.”

Kitamura readily accepted Ishikawa’s request.

The structure of bullying itself

Ishikawa CCed Kitamura and sent an email to the examination committee at 3:22 p.m. on December 9.

Yoichi Kitamura, attorney-at-law, who is my representative, will handle all matters related to this case. Please direct all communications to Attorney Kitamura. Please understand that even if you contact me regarding this case, I will not respond.

Three and a half hours later Ishikawa’s email, Ishikawa received another email from the committee. Kidamura’s address was removed. It was from Masao Ishigame, the head of the Legal and Intellectual Property Office.

I realized that Yoichi Kitamura, an attorney at law, has been entrusted with the matter, but since it is only a message from the company to the staff, I sent this email directly to you.

Ishikawa was stunned. The company has set up an examination committee after questioning him like a suspect. For Ishikawa, it is an important matter that affects his future. What does he mean by saying that it is “only a message to the staff” and removing Kitamura from the addressee?

After that, Ishikawa repeatedly asked them to communicate with his lawyer, Kitamura, but all were ignored.

Why do they avoid Kitamura so much?

In fact, at the first interview about a month ago, Shuhei Masunaga, General Manager of the Legal Affairs Department, and Kentaro Shimizu, Planning Committee Member of the Human Resources Department, General Affairs Bureau, were already aware of Kitamura. Knowing that Kitamura is Bungeishunju’s corporate lawyer, they have asked Ishikawa what Kitamura thought of the book.

Kyodo News was trying to avoid a confrontation with Kitamura and deal only with Ishikawa, an employee.

Avoiding strong opponents and isolating the target. That was the structure of bullying.

Yoichi Ishikawa, “The Sanctuary of Bullying: A Complete Record of Parents Who Challenged the Darkness of Catholic School.” (November 10, 2022, published by Bungeishunju)

To be continued.

(Originally published in Japanese on June 6, 2023. Translation by Mana Shibata.)

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