Adults in the Student Suicide Case

Deprivation of Reporter Position (31)

2023.12.12 13:08 Nanami Nakagawa

On January 27, 2023, Kyodo News issued a notice to Yoichi Ishikawa in the name of General Affairs Bureau Chief Takehiko Egashira. Even though Kyodo News is a third party, it stated that it revoked permission to publish Ishikawa’s book “The Sanctuary of Bullying,” published by Bungeishunju, and that reprints would not be permitted. Based on a factual error, they even wrote that Ishikawa had “violated the dignity as an employee.”

What will happen to Ishikawa from now on? His six-month childcare leave ends at the end of March. In April, he will have to work at the Chiba Bureau office.

On April 3, the first day of his return, Ishikawa was called by Ichiro Masamura, the Chiba Bureau chief.

(Left) Takehiko Egashira, General Affairs Director, from Kyodo News “KYODO NEWS No.863” (2020.9.25) obtained by Tansa; (Right) Ryuichi Matsui, Tokyo Bureau Manager, “KYODO NEWS No.884” (2022.7.25)

Sudden visit from the General Affairs Director and the Tokyo Bureau Manager

Immediately after Ishikawa arrived at the Chiba Bureau, he received a call from Masamura.

“The General Affairs Director and the Tokyo Bureau Manager are coming from the head office. They want to talk to you, Mr.Ishikawa. Is that okay?”

Masamura took Ishikawa to a separate room where Egashira, the head of the General Affairs Bureau, and Ryuichi Matsui, the Tokyo Bureau Manager were waiting. Why would Egashira, who had issued the notification, personally come to the Chiba office? It was obvious that this would not be good news for Ishikawa.

Egashira and Matsui said things like, “Is your child doing well?” and “I’m sorry for the sudden visit.”

Egashira took his seat and brought up the matter of the notice he sent to Ishikawa in his name.

“Recently, there was an issue regarding your book that was published in November. As I have already informed you in writing, we are revoking our consent for the book’s application for outside activities.”

“By failing to conduct a thorough investigation on the Nagasaki Shimbun and making assertive statements that unilaterally criticize the newspaper, you failed to perform your basic duties as a Kyodo News reporter and were in serious violation of the Guidelines for Journalistic Activities.”

Ishikawa did not argue and listened silently.

“The book is the true cry of us, the bereaved family,” claimed Hayato Fukuura’s bereaved family, attempting to convey that Ishikawa’s investigation is factual. Dai Sasaki, a cram school owner in Nagasaki City, argued that “chapter 11 of the book is essential,” which Kyodo News found troublesome. Despite this, Kyodo News dismissed their voices. Despite the fact that Ishikawa stated in his opinion that he had interviewed a Nagasaki Shimbun reporter, they misunderstood the statement and claimed, “You did not interview them at all.” It is pointless to argue at this point.

Egashira begins to press hard on Ishikawa.

“As I said earlier, I think it is clear that your expressions regarding this book go against the Guidelines for Journalistic Activities and do not meet the standards of a Kyodo News reporter, so I hope you will reflect on this.”

Matsui also added:

“I want you to do what comes naturally to us as a Kyodo News reporter. Everyone is doing it, so I want you to do it too.”

Ishikawa felt frustrated and aghast, thinking, “how could they even say such thing so casually.”

In January 2022, Ishikawa received the “Keiichiro Hikita Award” from the Japan Federation of Newspaper Workers’ Unions for a series of reports on the bullying and suicide problem of Hayato. The selection committee for the award is 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. A group of talented journalists praised him stating, “Even after he was transferred from the Nagasaki bureau to another bureau, his ingenuity and persistence in trying to somehow convey the case make us look forward to his further success in the future.”

The labor union within Kyodo News also featured Ishikawa’s award in its “Kyodo Labor Union NEWS” for two weeks.

Above all, even during the hearing to hold Ishikawa responsible for criticizing the Nagasaki Shimbun, there was a scene in which Kyodo News praised Ishikawa while mentioning his award. At the first hearing held on November 14, 2022, Kentaro Shimizu, a planning committee member of the Human Resources Department of the General Affairs Bureau, said the following:

“Your work was highly evaluated for writing straight news for a long period of time, which was the reason for winning the award. I think it was a wonderful report.”

What exactly is the standard of a reporter that Egashira claims that Ishikawa has not reached? The contradictory allegations appeared to reflect Kyodo News’ current approach, which included changing the cause for the hearing when things went wrong and forming an examination committee with members who didn’t fit the regulations.

However, Egashira declares without caring about Ishikawa’s thoughts.

“As a response, the company has decided to ask you to temporarily step away from the field that involves conducting interviews and posting articles.”

The most painful thing for reporter Ishikawa

Ishikawa was removed from his position as a reporter.

Although in a notice sent to Ishikawa, Kyodo News warned him regarding disciplinary action, saying, “Please note that reprinting without permission or publicizing this incident (between Mr. Ishikawa and Kyodo) in the media may result in disciplinary action,” they did not actually impose any disciplinary action. However, from Ishikawa’s perspective, it was effectively the same as being given disciplinary action. For Ishikawa, being unable to do his job as a reporter is the most painful thing.

Egashira says, “A personnel appointment will be released on May 16th. There is a department called the Research Department at the head office, and you will be asked to work there.”

What does the Research Department do? Later, Masamura, the bureau chief, explained this to Ishikawa.

According to Masamura, the Research Department is located at the Tokyo headquarters, and Ishikawa will be tasked with scanning manuscripts from 1968 to 1988 and converting them into data. Masamura said to Ishikaw:

“Since that’s the kind of work they do, they wanted you to help out.”

To be continued.

(Originally published in Japanese on June 29, 2023. Translation by Mana Shibata.)

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