NAGOYA – The Nagoya High Court made a U-turn Wednesday and sided with a Tokyo-based publishing house in a libel suit over the use of a pseudonym in an article about a minor charged in connection with four gang murders.
The court overturned its previous order for the publisher, Bungei Shunju Ltd., to pay compensation to the 28-year-old plaintiff after the Supreme Court returned the case to the high court.
The plaintiff in the suit, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for the slayings, had claimed the pseudonym was too similar to his real name and had demanded 1 million yen.
The high court rejected a damages suit filed by the plaintiff against Bungei Shunju, publisher of the weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun, over a July 1997 article on the murders that used a pseudonym similar to the plaintiff’s real name and other data that could be used to identify him.
His name had been withheld under the Juvenile Law because he was a minor when charged with robbery and murder in connection with four killings by a youth gang in 1994 in Aichi, Gifu and Osaka prefectures.
The law prohibits the news media from identifying charged minors.
“The importance of publishing the article supersedes the damage sustained by the man,” presiding Judge Shiro Kumada said in Wednesday’s ruling.
In the earlier rulings, the Nagoya District Court and the high court ordered the publisher to pay 300,000 yen in damages to the plaintiff, saying the article violated Article 61 of the Juvenile Law.
Bungei Shunju then appealed.
In March 2003, the Supreme Court overturned the high court’s initial ruling in 2000, saying the magazine story did not violate the law. It sent the case back to the high court, saying further deliberation was needed to decide whether the publisher should pay compensation for any violation of privacy.
After Wednesday’s ruling, Bungei Shunju released the statement: “It is natural that the man’s claim was rejected. We abided by the principles of the Juvenile Law and respected his privacy.”
The publisher added that it hopes the case will serve to “put the brakes on the (nation’s) judiciary, which of late has been going astray” in matters concerning the media and privacy.
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