Adults in the Student Suicide Case

Isolation of A Reporter Who Stick to Journalism (15)

2023.08.11 8:06 Nanami Nakagawa

Yoichi Ishikawa of Kyodo News has been criticized by the company ever since he was contacted by Chiba Bureau Chief Ichiro Masamura, who said, “There are protests,” the day after he published his book. Executives in charge of legal affairs and human resources conducted interviews, and an examination committee was set up without revealing who the members were. It didn’t even matter if Ishikawa was on childcare leave.

Masamura, the head of the department, did not protect his subordinate Ishikawa in such a situation. He even hid about the existence of a letter written to Masamura by Saori, the mother of Hayato Fukuura who committed suicide, who tried to protect Ishikawa.

Is there an employee at Kyodo News who wants to support Ishikawa?

“Invisible man”

In April 2023, Ishikawa finished childcare leave and resumed work at the Chiba Bureau office.

However, he was treated as troublesome.

He was given almost no work. The decisive factor that made Ishikawa feel isolated was during the election coverage. On April 23, a nationwide local election and a by-election for members of the House of Representatives were held in Chiba Prefecture.

At a meeting within the bureau before the election, bureau chief Masamura distributed materials to reporters and explained them, but only Ishikawa did not receive the materials.

The Chiba Bureau required extra reporters on election day, so they called in support reporters from other prefecture bureaus to prepare for coverage. Ishikawa, although being a reporter for the Chiba office, was not counted.

The Chiba office is a small team of about 10 people, including reporters, associate editors, the bureau chief, and clerks. Only one of his colleagues, a female reporter, spoke to him occasionally, but Ishikawa couldn’t help but feel isolated within Kyodo News.

It was like being invisible.

A colleague whose face he didn’t even know

In retrospect, even when Ishikawa won the “Keiichiro Hikita Award” from the Federation of Newspaper Workers’ Unions, the attitudes of other employees toward Ishikawa were strange.

Ishikawa received the award for a series of reports on the bullying and suicide case of Hayato Fukuura on January 18, 2022. The selection committee for the award was composed of photojournalist Natsuki Yasuda, former AERA editor-in-chief Keiko Hamada, journalist and former Kyodo News reporter Osamu Aoki, and former Mainichi Shimbun reporter Hiroshi Dai.

Ishikawa’s award was published in “Kyodo News Labor Union News,” which was distributed to union members of Kyodo News. It was featured for two weeks at the time of the award announcement and the report of the award ceremony, and was known throughout the company.

Not only did the Chiba Bureau chief at the time not mention Ishikawa’s award, but he did not even congratulate him.

Afterward, Ishikawa had the opportunity to speak with a close colleague who works at the head office. He told him about a rumor about Ishikawa’s award.

“I heard a person say that another reporter was connected to the source of the material originally, but Ishikawa stole the source from that person and won the award.”

It was an unfounded rumor. His colleague told Ishikawa the name of the employee who said so. Nonetheless, Ishikawa had no idea what that person’s name or face was.

“You are ‘J’”

Ishikawa joined Kyodo News in April 2017. His first post was in Fukuoka.

Shortly after joining the company, a senior at the branch office invited him and some of his colleagues out for a drink and went to a Japanese bar.

They talked about business cards. Ishikawa was concerned about the title written on his business card. It is written in English as “Staff reporter” under the term “reporter” in Japanese. Ishikawa didn’t quite understand what this meant. “I wish it was written ‘Journalist,” said Ishikawa.

Then, the boss who was present suddenly yelled, “Are you stupid!?” To the surprised Ishikawa, he asks, “Can you get a fact by calling yourself a ‘journalist’?” Finally, he said to Ishikawa, “You are ‘J.'”

After this incident, Ishikawa was sometimes called “J” within the Fukuoka branch office.

When Ishikawa was assigned to the Nagasaki Bureau and pursued Hayato’s case, he encountered his superior’s dumbfounded behavior.

On December 25, 2020, a press conference was held by Hodo Nakamura, then governor of Nagasaki Prefecture. Ishikawa asked the governor’s view on the prefecture’s confirmation of Kaisei Gakuen’s proposal to the bereaved family to make Hayato’s death a “sudden death.”

After the press conference, Kei Ota, the prefectural general affairs manager, got angry that Ishikawa mentioned the name of Osamu Matsuo, a counselor in the Academic Affairs Division, in a question. Koichi Doshita, a reporter for the Nagasaki Shimbun, also supported Ota and said to Ishikawa.

“As a prefectural press club, we can’t overlook your behavior if you go too far.”

Civil servants are public figures in the first place, and the post of councilor is a position of responsibility. He couldn’t understand why Doshita was protecting Matsuo, who made such a serious remark that “sudden death is barely permissible.”

However, Ishikawa later learned that Osamu Yamashita, the head of the Nagasaki Bureau at the time, had gone to the prefecture. Matsuo’s name was anonymized in the minutes of the governor’s conference on the prefectural website.

Kyodo News Labor Union also abandons Ishikawa

There is no ally at Kyodo News who speaks out about Ishikawa’s treatment and fights alongside him.

Ishikawa complained of his plight to Kyodo News Labor Union.

Nonetheless, the topic of Ishikawa’s allegations was not brought up in collective bargaining between the union and the company.

The editorial policy of Kyodo News says, “We will not give in to pressure and protect freedom of speech.” (From Kyodo News website)

To be continued.

(Originally published in Japanese on June 7, 2023. Translation by Mana Shibata.)

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