The Tokyo District Court on Friday upheld a temporary injunction banning publication of the latest edition of the weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun, judging that one of its stories violates the privacy of former Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka’s daughter.
Tanaka’s daughter is a “private figure,” and her personal affairs have nothing to do with the public interest, the court said Friday. The Shukan Bunshun article therefore cannot be judged to have been written for the purpose of serving the public interest, it said.
The three-judge court thus rejected an objection filed by publisher Bungeishunju Ltd. against the injunction, which was issued Tuesday.
Publication of the article in a well-known magazine sold nationwide may cause serious and irreparable damage to the privacy of Tanaka’s daughter, and could traumatize both her and other people involved, the court said.
By the time the rare injunction was issued by the court Tuesday, Bungeishunju had already shipped most of its 770,000 printed copies of Shukan Bunshun. The publisher halted shipments of the remaining 30,000 copies following the court order.
The district court said the injunction applies to the unshipped 30,000 copies, ordering the publisher to pay 1.37 million yen apiece per day to Tanaka’s daughter and her former husband if it ships the remaining copies. This fine would remain intact as long as those copies remain on store shelves.
After the Shukan Bunshun issue was delivered to newsstands Wednesday morning, railway station kiosks removed the copies, but many bookstores and convenience stores kept selling the magazines.
A large part of the shipped copies were reportedly sold out due to media coverage of the dispute.
Bungeishunju said it would appeal the district court decision to a higher court, denouncing the injunction as “nothing less than suppression of freedom of the press.”
The injunction issued Tuesday was an extremely rare order halting publication of a magazine before it goes on sale, triggering debate on privacy vs. freedom of the press.
Judicial precedents say courts can issue an order of this nature only when it is feared the release of a publication could cause serious and irreparable damage to the people involved.
The Shukan Bunshun issue features a three-page article reporting that Tanaka’s daughter married despite fierce opposition from her parents, divorced a year later and returned to Japan, leaving the man behind in Los Angeles.
In the objection filed
Wednesday, Bungeishunju said the court injunction restricts the freedom of the press, adding that it had given sufficient consideration toward Tanaka’s daughter’s privacy.
The daughter’s lawyers said the publisher ran the article despite their repeated request not to do so, leaving their client no option but to seek a temporary court injunction.
In a statement released after Friday’s court decision, Bungeishunju said a presale court order banning publication of a periodical violates the freedom of the press not only regarding the disputed article but other stories carried in the magazine.
The court order, in mentioning the “violation of privacy” while suppressing the disclosure of the actual contents of the article, “unfairly degrades the evaluation of magazine journalism,” the publisher said.
Friday’s court decision could set a precedent that would effectively pave the way for censorship and deprive the public of their right to know, Bungeishunju said.
Yosuke Kitamura, a lawyer for Bungeishunju, told a news conference that the injunction would not serve to protect the privacy of Tanaka’s daughter, because 740,000 copies of the magazine had already been shipped when it was issued Tuesday.
The injunction stops the magazine’s “sale, free distribution or transfer to third parties” unless the article in dispute is removed. The halt applies to the publisher but not to retailers.
Koichi Sasamoto, a Bungeishunju executive, also said the publisher would carry its opinion on the disputed article in next week’s edition of Shukan Bunshun.