Adults in the Student Suicide Case

What Does Kyodo News Mean By “General Readers”? / The Gallery Seats Are Almost Full At the “Freedom of the Press Trial”

2024.06.14 13:54 Nanami Nakagawa

What Kyodo News values ​​is not its readers, but its member company, the Nagasaki Shimbun.

The plaintiff raised this point in the “Freedom of the Press Trial” on June 7, 2024.

The evidence was an article by Tansa.

The Nagasaki Shimbun is not for “general readers” but for “those directly involved”

Let me explain what led to the trial.

Former Kyodo News reporter Yoichi Ishikawa published a book, “The Sanctuary of Bullying,” in November 2022, through Bungeishunju. It detailed the case of a high school student who committed suicide due to bullying in Nagasaki City in 2017. The book describes how the school attempted to cover up the suicide, how the local administration accepted it, and how the Nagasaki Shimbun defended the administration.

Kyodo News took issue with Ishikawa’s critique of the Nagasaki Shimbun. They examined him and revoked the “approval of outside activities” granted to Ishikawa for the publication of his book printed by Bungeishunju. The rationale for the revocation was that “he did not meet the standards of a Kyodo News journalist,” and Ishikawa was fired from his journalism position. They also prohibited reprinting of the book.

In the previous oral pleading, Kyodo News argued the following reason for the cancellation of the consent for outside activities: (Tansa added information in parentheses.)

“If the descriptions do not satisfy the standards of Kyodo News’ stories, the defendant’s (Kyodo News) credibility would suffer. Therefore, whether the credibility that the defendant (Kyodo News) was attempting to protect by revoking approval for outside activities in this instance has been harmed must be judged based on the standards of the general reader.”

So who are the “general readers” and what is their opinion of “The Sanctuary of Bullying”? Kyodo News has never given a clear explanation.

At the fifth oral pleading held at the Tokyo District Court on June 7, 2024, the plaintiff instead presented the evaluations of general readers.

Since its release in November 2022, “The Sanctuary of Bullying” has received numerous positive reviews.

For example, it received the “12th Journalist Association of Japan Award Grand Prize” in July 2023. This award was evaluated by both media professionals and general readers. When the award was presented, the general readers’ feedback was made public.

“This work investigates not just the school’s response to the bullying incident, but also the strange acts of local media and the prefecture that oversees the private high school. What a tragic end for a society in which journalism has become dysfunctional. This book, which raises such sharp questions about society, is truly deserving of the grand prize.”

“It shed light on the issues behind bullying that other media, including local newspapers, have not actively reported on.”

In December 2023, it received the “Journalism X Award (Encouragement Award).” The organizer, the Citizens’ Fund for Supporting Journalism, is an organization made up of citizens.

Based on the mission of “ordinary citizens who are not journalists but have extensive experience in a variety of social activities supporting journalism,” the organization works to “select and honor journalism that creates a free and fair society.”

The book has also received the “2024 Regional and People’s Journalism Award” and was one of four finalists for the “54th Oya Soichi Non-Fiction Award.”

In the end, Kyodo News is turning a blind eye to the fact that Ishikawa was highly regarded by the general readers. There is no such thing as the “general readers” that Kyodo News claims to have.

Yoichi Kitamura, the lawyer representing the plaintiff, responded to an interview after the oral pleading that day.

“The Nagasaki Shimbun is currently the only ‘general reader’ that Kyodo News refers to. They are not ‘general readers’ but ‘those directly involved.'”

“It was a predetermined race”

Why does Kyodo News try to portray the Nagasaki Shimbun, a party involved, as a “general reader?”

That’s because it was a predetermined race.

During the oral pleading that day, the plaintiff presented new evidence to the court.

It was an article reported by Tansa on November 22, 2023, titled “Nagasaki Shimbun’s Internal Documents Obtained / Kyodo News Apologized The Day After The Book’s Release Without Hearing The Author.”

According to the minutes of the “directors’ meeting” held at the Nagasaki Shimbun company on November 14, 2022, the following events were reported.

Makoto Taniguchi, manager of Kyodo News Fukuoka branch, paid a visit to the Nagasaki Shimbun headquarters on the afternoon of the 10th, the day after the book was released. Kyodo News’ Taniguchi apologized, saying that the book contained a section that hurt the reputation of Nagasaki Shimbun and its reporters. He listed several points that Kyodo News considers to be problematic, stating, “The problematic description is Mr. Ishikawa’s personal assertion, and it does not align with Kyodo’s belief,” and “The Head Office’s General Affairs Bureau and Legal Affairs Bureau are considering responses.”

In addition to Editor-in-Chief Kenji Ishida, News Headquarters Director Takaki Yamada and News Director Mukai from Nagasaki Shimbun were there. The Nagasaki Shimbun’s view is that, “The content is insulting and degrading to the Nagasaki Shimbun and is contrary to the facts. It feels malicious. Kyodo News must take appropriate action.”

The problem was that Kyodo News had not even spoken to Ishikawa at that point. Despite this, they had already apologized to the Nagasaki Shimbun and said they were “considering how to respond.”

Kyodo News then began to pursue Ishikawa’s responsibility. Kyodo News ultimately decided to revoke the consent for outside activities without taking into account the opinions submitted by Ishikawa or the family of the victim of the bullying-related suicide.

Attorney Kitamura says:

“What Kyodo News did after apologizing to the Nagasaki Shimbun was a predetermined race. They simply did what they promised to do to the Nagasaki Shimbun.”

The next pleading: July 26th at 1:30 p.m. in Courtroom No. 611 of the Tokyo District Court

More and more citizens are taking an interest in how the “Freedom of the Press Trial” unfolds.

There were 26 people attending that day’s trial, excluding Tansa’s reporters. This is the highest number in the past four trials. There were almost no empty seats in the gallery in Courtroom 611 of the Tokyo District Court where the trial has always taken place.

After the trial, someone in the gallery called out to me.

“I learned about this trial through Tansa’s articles. I came to attend the trial because I wanted to support Mr. Ishikawa.”

Those attending the trial are also “general readers.”

When I was called, I remembered the exchange between Attorney Kitamura and Presiding Judge Takashi Nakajima during the first oral pleading.

Presiding Judge Nakajima asked, “Would it be okay to communicate in writing from now on?”

Communication in writing refers to a trial that proceeds only by written exchanges between the plaintiff, defendant, and judge, with no oral pleadings held in court. In other words, neither citizens nor reporters can attend the trial.

Attorney Kitamura immediately replied, “No, I would like to argue the matter in court.”

The next hearing will be held on July 26th at 1:30 p.m. in Courtroom No. 611 of the Tokyo District Court.

Photo by Nanami Nakagawa on June 7, 2024

(Originally published in Japanese on June 7, 2024. Translation by Mana Shibata.)

Adults in the Student Suicide Case: All articles