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Tokyo-based publisher Bungeishunju Ltd. said Thursday its controversial article about former Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka’s daughter contributed to the public good.

The publisher said in a special feature in the weekly magazine’s April 1 edition, which hit newsstands Thursday, that it cannot consider the daughter of the lawmaker “a purely private citizen” as Cabinet members must disclose their assets, including those of their families.

Tanaka’s daughter traveled abroad with her mother and grandfather, the late Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka, and accompanied her mother on her election campaign, the publisher said.

On Friday, the Tokyo District Court upheld a temporary injunction against the previous edition of Bungeishunju’s weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun, which reported on the failed marriage of Tanaka’s daughter.

Tanaka and her husband, Naoki Tanaka, a House of Councilors member, have used employees of their family-owned businesses in their election campaigns and even as their secretaries, the feature says. “It cannot be said that lawmakers in the Tanaka family have drawn a sharp line between their public and private lives,” it says.

Referring to the court’s ruling, the publisher said, “It is an extremely serious decision, as it restricts the freedom of the press,” because the magazine contains many other stories and essays other than the banned article.

2 million yen for libel

The Tokyo District Court on Thursday ordered Bungeishunju Ltd. to pay Yomiuri Shimbun Holdings Chairman Tsuneo Watanabe 2 million yen in damages for marring his reputation with a groundless article it carried in a weekly magazine.

The court said the Oct. 31, 2002, edition of Bungeishunju’s weekly Shukan Bunshun erroneously reported that Watanabe, then chairman of the Japan Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association, exerted his influence on the selection of speakers at an annual association award ceremony.

Presiding Judge Yoshiteru Kawamura said, “The details of the report cannot be called facts, and the information (the publisher said) it received from a close source lacks specifics.”

Watanabe, who demanded 30 million yen in damages from the Tokyo publisher, called the ruling reasonable.

A Bungeishunju spokesman said the publisher regrets losing the case because it had to protect its source’s identity.

Defendant cries bias

SENDAI (Kyodo) Lawyers for a nurse charged with slaying a patient said Thursday they have asked the weekly magazine Shukan Asahi to run a correction and apologize for an article that they claim portrays the accused as a liar and damages his reputation.

Daisuke Mori stands accused of killing an elderly patient and attempting to murder four others by giving them lethal doses of muscle relaxant when he worked at the now-defunct Hokuryo Clinic in Sendai in 2000.

Mori has pleaded not guilty. The Sendai District Court is expected to rule on his trial Tuesday. Prosecutors have demanded life imprisonment.

The lawyers threatened a libel suit against the magazine, published by the major daily Asahi Shimbun.

In its request to the magazine, the defense team said the latest edition quotes the former manager of the clinic as saying Mori lied.

The lawyers said the article is based only on the personal views of the clinic owner and lacks statements by Mori or any of his counsel, and thus damages Mori’s reputation.

The lawyers want the weekly to publish a corrected article and an apology in newspapers by Friday.

In response, Takeshi Suzuki, the magazine’s editor, said the article does introduce the position of the defense. He said the weekly had been planning to run articles, including interviews, of people on Mori’s side in its next edition.

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