A freelance journalist who is being sued for defamation by the publisher of the top popular-music chart said Wednesday the legal action is an attack on freedom of speech that has been ignored by the domestic press.
The article at the center of the case, “The Lies Behind the Hits/Does Johnny’s Get Super-VIP treatment?!/The Honeymoon Between the Talent Agency and Oricon,” run on a full page under the byline “Editorial Department,” relies heavily on two long quotes attributed to Ugaya, with only a brief introduction and conclusion.
Ugaya claims he was quoted inaccurately and “very important” parts of his comments were omitted.
He said that after the interview, the magazine sent him a draft of his comments for review. He claimed he corrected errors and filled in omissions in the text, but the editor who interviewed him refused to make the changes because there wasn’t enough time and no more space on the page.
Tadashi Ibi, Cyzo’s editor in chief, said the one-page article drew attention to disparities between Oricon rankings and those of other hit lists, but “raised questions without providing conclusions.”
Ibi said Cyzo firmly supported Ugaya. He said he was not directly involved in the article and added its author had left the magazine.
“If publishers don’t offer support, nobody will ever want to speak out in the future,” Ibi said. “This isn’t just about freelance reporters, either. (Publications) gather quotes from people on the street, too. If everybody starts worrying about being sued for speaking their mind, we won’t be able to interview anybody.”
Lawyer Kentaro Shirosaki said Oricon was not necessarily out of line for suing to protect its public image, but would have been better off trying to negotiate out of court, such as by asking the publisher for a correction, particularly since Ugaya had not written the article.
“Words should be met with words,” Shirosaki said. “When the talk turns so quickly to demands for financial reparations, big crushes small. Individuals cower in the face of mighty organizations. . . . And I think the withering effect this has on journalism is undesirable.”