Justice Minister Isao Matsuura denounced the Shinchosha publishing house July 4 and demanded that it immediately recall copies of its two magazines that ran a photo of the 14-year-old Kobe youth being held in the murder of schoolboy Jun Hase.

“This is a clear violation of the Juvenile Law, and it has greatly damaged the honor and violated the privacy rights of the suspect,” Matsuura told a news conference after a regular Cabinet meeting. The ministry’s request is not legally binding and Shinchosha declined to recall copies of the latest issues of the pictorial weekly Focus and the weekly Shukan Shincho.

“We don’t think we did anything wrong,” Kazumasa Tajima, editor in chief of Focus, said at a news conference. Matsuura urged the publisher to withdraw the latest issues after they published photos of the suspect. The boy has reportedly confessed to strangling Hase on May 24, decapitating him and three days later placing the head in front of the gate of Kobe’s Tomogaoka Junior High School, which the suspect had attended. He said his ministry will soon issue a formal recall demand to the firm.

“The company caused a similar incident in 1985 and received an official advisory (from the ministry), but it has again caused this incident,” Matsuura said. “The firm lacks respect for basic human rights and has ignored the law, which is extremely regrettable.”

In July 1985, Focus carried a photo of a 16-year-old boy who was suspected of killing his parents in Sapporo. The Tokyo Legal Affairs Bureau then issued an advisory but did not demand a recall of the magazine.

The Juvenile Law carries no punishment for violators, and the education minister has no authority to force a publisher to recall a publication. The law prohibits publication of articles and photos that could be used to identify the face, name, age, job, address or other characteristics of a minor who faces a “judgment” by a family court. Minors under 16 cannot face a criminal trial. Some Cabinet ministers have said this should be reviewed.

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