The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a lower court ruling ordering Bungeishunju Ltd. to pay 9.2 million yen in damages to the family of an archaeologist who killed himself in 2001 because of reports in the publishing company’s weekly magazine.
Upholding a Fukuoka High Court ruling, the top court’s No. 1 Petty Bench also ordered the publisher to print an apology to the family of Mitsuo Kagawa in the weekly magazine, Shukan Bunshun.
The top court said Shukan Bunshun carried reports from January to March 2001 that suggested Kagawa had faked finds of stone tools in the Hijiridaki Cave in Honjo, Oita Prefecture, in 1962. Kagawa was then an archaeologist at Beppu University in the prefecture.
The 78-year-old professor emeritus at the university hanged himself at his home in March 2001, leaving a note saying he was killing himself to protest the articles.
Kagawa and his team in 1962 claimed the tools found in the cave dated from the Paleolithic era, the earliest period of the Stone Age. But another archaeological team cast doubt on the claim in 1999.
The Fukuoka High Court described the publisher’s methods of gathering information as careless, and questioned the veracity of the reports. “The reports brought about such heavy mental distress to Kagawa that he decided to kill himself,” the presiding judge said.
In a statement, the family of Kagawa said the Supreme Court decision should prompt media organizations to review their operations and base their pursuit of truth on careful collection of information.
The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed an earlier court ruling ordering popular cartoonist Yoshinori Kobayashi to pay 2.5 million yen in damages and apologise to a college teacher who claimed he was defamed by Kobayashi’s referral to him as a “thief.”
Thursday’s ruling by the No. 1 Petty Bench of the top court was a reversal of the Tokyo High Court’s decision to rule in favor of Satoshi Uesugi, a Kansai University lecturer.
Uesugi authored a book quoting Kobayashi’s best selling “manga” comic series — “Shin Gomanism Sengen” — which addresses various political and social issues.
After that, Kobayashi criticized Uesugi in his comic strip in the Nov. 26, 1997, issue of a semimonthly magazine, calling the professor a “thief for using (my) drawing without permission” and illustrating Uesugi in his comic strip as a thief.
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