Adults in the Student Suicide Case

Are Reporters Affiliated With Organizations Journalists or Just Employees of Organizations? / “Freedom of Press Trial,” The Second Oral Pleading

2024.01.30 14:38 Nanami Nakagawa

On January 19, 2024, the second oral pleading was held in a lawsuit in which former Kyodo News reporter Yoichi Ishikawa is seeking compensation for damages from the company. The circumstances are as reported in this series.

In preparation for the oral pleading, both the plaintiff, Ishikawa, and the defendant, Kyodo News, submitted documents to the court in advance to clarify their respective claims.

There was a critical difference in their claims.

It was a question of whether reporters who belong to an organization should be respected as independent journalists or subjected to restrictions as members of the organization.

It has become clear that the point at issue in this trial is whether or not reporters affiliated with organizations are journalists or just employees of organizations.

Kyodo News ignores “homework” from the presiding judge

Kyodo News submitted a preliminary document to the court for the second oral pleading.

Kyodo News was given “homework” by Presiding Judge Takashi Nakajima during the first oral pleading on November 24, 2023. The presiding judge requested Kyodo News to clarify each reason for Ishikawa’s failure to give a confirmatory interview to the Nagasaki Shimbun and his criticism of the Nagasaki Shimbun as the grounds for revoking the consent for outside activities.

However, Kyodo News did not include answers to the presiding judge’s request in its preliminary documents.

On the other hand, there were some points that they repeatedly made. “Despite Mr. Ishikawa being a reporter for Kyodo News, he damaged the relationship of trust between Kyodo News and the Nagasaki Shimbun.”

Here are some excerpts. Information in parentheses was added by Tansa.

“It would be fine if the plaintiff (Ishikawa) criticized the Nagasaki Shimbun’s reporting attitude as an individual opinion without stating his position as the defendant (Kyodo News) reporter.”

“While claiming to be a reporter for the defendant Kyodo News, the plaintiff (Ishikawa) engaged in expressive activities that did not meet the standards of a reporter for the defendant Kyodo News.”

“To put it the other way around, with regard to individual activities that do not use the title of the defendant (Kyodo News) and cannot be recognized as speech activities of the defendant (Kyodo News), it is only necessary to request prior notification and it does not restrict employees’ expressive activities.”

The author is “Yoichi Ishikawa”

Kyodo News insists that Ishikawa wrote the book as an employee, but Ishikawa and his attorney, Yoichi Kitamura, directly refuted this in a brief submitted to the court.

“This book was written by the plaintiff as an individual, not as an employee of Kyodo News.”

Ishikawa’s book, “The Sanctuary of Bullying,” which led to the current trial, was written by Ishikawa as an individual after obtaining permission to write outside the company’ from Kyodo News and was published by Bungeishunju. They claim that Kyodo News is a third party and has no relationship whatsoever.

In support of this, he indicated that the book’s author name is written as “Yoichi Ishikawa,” and that titles such as “Kyodo News Employee” are not used.

Furthermore, the plaintiff cited three books that include the word “Kyodo News” in their author names. This is to clarify the distinction between cases where a Kyodo News reporter writes a book as an employee and Ishikawa’s books published under his own name.

・“Kyodo News Social Affairs Department” (Author: Kyodo News Social Affairs Department, 1994, Kodansha + α Bunko)

・ “Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office Special Investigation Department” (Author: Kyodo News Social Affairs Department, 1998, Kodansha + α Bunko)

・“History of Heisei Professional Baseball” (Author: Kyodo News Sports Department, 2019, Kyodo News)

The plaintiff’s brief concluded as follows. Information in parentheses was added by Tansa.

“Even when considered in light of the facts related to the book in question, it is clear that the defendant’s (Kyodo News) claims are without grounds.”

Not recognized as a journalist

I believe that Kyodo News does not recognize its own reporters as journalists.

However, Ishikawa is a journalist. His speech activities should not be controlled by anyone. He acts and expresses himself based on the judgment of independent individuals, not those of an organization.

Kyodo News’ claim that “the relationship of trust between Kyodo News and Nagasaki Shimbun has been damaged” means that Kyodo believes that Ishikawa, as an “employee,” should prioritize the interests of the company rather than his behavior as a journalist.

On July 24, 2023, Kitamura said the following at a press conference announcing the lawsuit filed by Ishikawa.

“’Freedom of the press’ can only be protected if the ‘freedom of the press’ of each journalist affiliated with a news organization is protected.”

The next court will be held at 11 am on March 22 in Courtroom No. 611 of the Tokyo District Court.

(Originally published in Japanese on January 19, 2024. Translation by Mana Shibata.)

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