JAPAN: Free Speech VS. Political Correctness in Journalist’s Comments

According to the Japanese government, seventeen Japanese citizens were abducted and taken to North Korea during the 1970s and 1980s. Among those who are reportedly held by the communist nation is Keiko Arimoto. In 2009, TV Asahi, a Japanese television network, featured a debate program during which journalist Soichiro Tahara stated that the abductees, including Arimoto, were likely deceased.

The Mainichi Daily News, Japan’s third largest daily newspaper, recently reported that Tahara has been ordered to pay 1 million yen to Arimoto’s parents, who claim his remarks on the program were offensive and misleading. While in court Tahara argued that his statements were “based on his news-gathering activities on what the Foreign Ministry really thinks about the [abductees].” Despite this claim, the Presiding Judge, Koichi Nagai, found the remarks to be wholly fallacious and hurtful.
Following the trial Tahara expressed to reporters that the court failed to recognize the importance of free speech, specifically noting the obligation of the media to “freely express their views on diplomatic and political issues in a diplomatic society.” Initially planning to appeal the results, Tahara has since retracted that decision. Through his lawyer, the journalist has stated that while he was still against the ruling, he would not appeal out of respect for Arimoto’s parents.
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