KOBE – The Asahi Shimbun daily and local residents on Thursday paid tribute to a 29-year-old reporter killed in a 1987 shooting at its western Japan bureau, in an attack claimed by ultra-rightists angered by the newspaper’s “anti-national” reporting.
Company officials also renewed their pledge to defend freedom of the press as the newspaper marked the 31st anniversary of the killing at the bureau in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture.
“It is important that we pass on the lesson from the incident to younger generations so that he will live on in our hearts,” said Hideo Kitamura, a 68-year-old former civil servant from the city who visits the bureau every year to offer a prayer.
“It is regrettable that he died when he had a bright future as a journalist. Even though I was not born when the incident occurred, I want this world to be a place where we can speak freely,” said a 28-year-old child care worker.
On May 3, 1987, a shotgun-wielding man in a ski mask entered the daily’s Hanshin bureau and shot Tomohiro Kojiri and his colleague, Hyoe Inukai.
Kojiri died of his wounds, while Inukai sustained serious injuries.
Responsibility for the attack was claimed by Sekihotai, believed by police to be a right-wing extremist group. The assailant escaped the scene of the shooting and was never identified.
The group sent letters to Kyodo News and other news organizations after the attack, saying that all “anti-Japan elements” should be executed.
Sekihotai also claimed responsibility for other attacks and an attempted bombing of Asahi Shimbun facilities between 1987 and 1988. The statute of limitations for the bureau killing passed in 2002, and those for the other attacks expired in 2003.
Tsutae Furukawa, managing editor of the daily’s Osaka bureau, visited Kojiri’s grave in Hiroshima Prefecture with other Asahi Shimbun officials.
“The case is never closed as far as we are concerned, and it should never be forgotten. It is our job to seek out truths in the interest of people’s right to know without yielding to violence or pressure,” Furukawa said.
Ultra-nationalists have alleged that the Asahi reports events in ways that run counter to national interests.