The Supreme Court on Friday overturned a Nagoya High Court ruling that ordered a weekly magazine to pay compensation for violating the privacy of a man accused of taking part in murders in 1994 when he was a minor.
It sent the case back to the high court.
The Nagoya High Court in 2000 ordered Bungei Shunju, publisher of the weekly Shukan Bunshun, to pay 300,000 yen to the man for a story on the case using a pseudonym similar to his real name.
The man’s name had been withheld under the Juvenile Law because he was 18 when he was charged with robbery and murder in connection with a series of killings by a gang of youths in 1994 in Aichi, Gifu and Osaka prefectures. The Juvenile Law prohibits media reports from identifying in any way minors charged with offenses.
In handing down Friday’s ruling, presiding Justice Hiroharu Kitagawa said, “It is true that the article infringed upon the plaintiff’s privacy, but the general public cannot guess and confirm that it is him, and therefore the article did not violate the Juvenile Law requirements.”
In the first ruling on the case, the Nagoya District Court in June 1999 found the publisher guilty of violating the Juvenile Law, saying, “It was possible to easily guess the real name from the pseudonym. The article violated the Juvenile Law and infringed upon the man’s honor and privacy.”
The Nagoya High Court in June 2000 upheld the lower court ruling and said, “Even if the content of the reporting was true and served the purpose of benefiting the public, it is different from the reporting of adult crimes and the illegality remains.”
Bungei Shunju appealed to the Supreme Court and argued that its freedom of expression should be respected.
The man, now 27, was sentenced to life in prison for murder and robbery by the Nagoya District Court in July 2001. That case is under appeal.
Shukan Bunshun had reported on the man’s marriage and record of delinquency during his trial.
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