Adults in the Student Suicide Case

Mr. Ishikawa Files Suit For Press Freedom / Kyodo News Introduces “Censorship” on External Speech Activities

2023.12.16 18:40 Nanami Nakagawa

Yoichi Ishikawa filed a lawsuit against Kyodo News on July 24, seeking compensation for damages. On the same day, he attended a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan (FCCJ) with his attorney, Yoichi Kitamura.

As reported in the series “Adults in the Student Suicide Case,” Mr. Ishikawa wrote the book “The Sanctuary of Bullying,” published by Bungeishunju in November 2022, which follows the bullying suicide case of Hayato Fukuura (16 years old at the time) that occurred in Nagasaki City. Kyodo News has decided to prohibit reprinting the book and strip him of his job as a reporter. This is due to his criticism of the reporting attitude of the Nagasaki Shimbun, a member company of Kyodo News, in his book.

A letter from Hayato Fukuura’s bereaved family, his mother, Saori, and his father, Daisuke, was read out at the pressconference. The family strongly criticized Kyodo News’ stance, claiming that “the news media themselves are creating a situation where they exclude the weak.”

Kyodo News, on the other hand, is increasing its monitoring of reporters’ external speech activities. According to the company’s internal documents obtained by Tansa, when a reporter wants to publish a book from another company, Kyodo News will request that the manuscript be submitted in advance if Kyodo News deems it necessary. This is censorship in action.

Yoichi Ishikawa (left), who sued Kyodo News, and Yoichi Kitamura, a lawyer representing Mr. Ishikawa. (Photo by Nanami Nakagawa on July 24, 2023)

“Kyodo News no longer has the right to call itself a news organization”

The press conference began at 2:00 pm at FCCJ in Tokyo. About 20 reporters attended the conference. Three people from Kyodo News also attended.

At the outset, Mr. Ishikawa explained the circumstances that led to the filing of the lawsuit. This is what I reported on in the series “Adults in the Student Suicide Case.”

Mr. Ishikawa said this in response to Kyodo News executives who prioritized their member company, the Nagasaki Shimbun, over the bereaved family and suppressed fact-based speech activities.

“The family who needed the help of journalism has been betrayed once again. Kyodo News no longer has the right to call itself a news organization.”

Ishikawa’s strong words criticizing Kyodo News caused a stir among several people in the audience.

Mr. Ishikawa is seeking 5.5 million yen in damages for infringement of the following three rights:

・Violation of “sense of honor,” in which the qualifications as a reporter were denied

・Violation of “property rights” due to prohibition of reprinting

・Violation of “freedom of the press” guaranteed by “freedom of expression” stipulated in Article 21 of the Constitution

Mr. Kitamura said, “The interactions between the Nagasaki Shimbun and Kyodo News will likely become clearer through the trial,” and “I believe that by winning the trial, it will be significant to reveal Kyodo News’ biases and structural flaws.”

Never-ending “bullying”

At the press conference, a letter from Hayato Fukuura’s mother, Saori, and father, Daisuke, was read out. Here are some excerpts.

Our child took his own life due to bullying. However, the bullying did not end there.


As the bereaved family, we felt as if we were being bullied by the school, as the school suggested transfers or sudden death, and also rejected the conclusions of a third-party investigation committee. I was also subjected to double bullying, with the local government defending such a school. Furthermore, a media outlet even defended local governments.


And the reporter who reported a series of truths ended up being punished by his company.


It’s like a cycle of bullying. Before we knew it, the feelings of the child who had suffered the most were out of the picture, and there were only adults who followed their own convenience.


We believe that the voices of the weak can be conveyed to society by sincere news organizations.


Kyodo News’ recent stance may be creating a situation in which news organizations themselves exclude the weak.


I believe that reporter Ishikawa filed the lawsuit today with the idea that the same thing must not be repeated. We, the bereaved family, share his thought.

In response to an interview with Tansa, Hayato’s mother, Saori, said:

“I want many people to know about Mr. Ishikawa’s lawsuit. If reporters who report the truth are excluded, I don’t understand what news organizations are supposed to do.”

Kyodo News continues to avoid answering for two months

Mr. Ishikawa also expressed concern that no Kyodo News reporters or employees would speak out against the company’s stance.

Three people from Kyodo News were present at the press conference, but no one raised their hand during the question-and-answer period.

However, for Kyodo News reporters, Ishikawa’s case is not someone else’s problem.

Tansa obtained an internal Kyodo News document dated June 23, 2023. It was distributed to employees in the name of Takehiko Egashira, head of the General Affairs Bureau, after the general meeting of employees held the day before.

The document concerned revisions to “Regulations Regarding Outside Speech Activities” and stated the company’s policy to increase monitoring of reporters. Here are some excerpts.

The rules governing publications and lectures have also been updated as part of the “Regulations Concerning External Speech Activities.” We will tighten the rules and alter “company’s understanding” to “company’s permission” when employees submit applications. If necessary, we will draft a new clause that allows the company to request the submission of descriptions of their activities, such as book manuscripts.

In other words, Kyodo News has announced that it will carry out censorship. Censorship is a major violation of press freedom. This provision infringes on the editorial independence and freedom of publication of other publishers and increases the possibility that Kyodo News reporters will be less likely to receive requests from publishers to write for them.

Following a series of crackdowns on Mr. Ishikawa, the revisions were made. This means that the management has boldly introduced a measure that restricts press freedom while Kyodo News reporters remain silent.

Mr. Kitamura, who has defended freedom of the press in numerous lawsuits, said the following:

“’Freedom of the press’ can only be protected if the ‘freedom of the press’ of each journalist affiliated with a news organization is protected. However, Kyodo News’ new standards limit each journalist’s ‘freedom of the press.’”

After the press conference, I followed up with Kyodo News.

The person who answered my questions was Motoi Ariwaka, deputy director of the General Affairs Bureau, who reports directly to Egashira.

I asked three questions.

First, I asked him about Kyodo News’ opinion on this lawsuit. The answer is as follows.

“We will continue to assert the legitimacy of our company in the legal proceedings.”

The second question is the reason for censorship.

“Since it is related to the lawsuit, I will refrain from giving an answer.”

The third question is about the response to the letter of inquiry sent by Tansa to Kyodo News on May 17th when reporting on the first part of the series, “Kyodo News Edition.” It’s been more than two months since the deadline for responses, and I still haven’t received a response.

“I will refrain from giving an answer.”

As for the reason for refraining from giving an answer, “I will refrain from giving an answer.”

(Originally published in Japanese on July 24, 2023. Translation by Mana Shibata.)

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