National

Tokyo court admits Asahi reporter was defamed but denies damages over 'comfort women' articles

Kyodo, Staff Report

The Tokyo District Court recognized Wednesday that a former Asahi Shimbun newspaper reporter was defamed in connection with his 1991 articles on “comfort women,” but it rejected his claim for damages against a major publisher and a scholar.

The term comfort women is a euphemism used to refer to women who provided sex, including those who did so against their will, for Japanese troops before and during World War II.

In a libel suit filed with the Tokyo District Court, Takashi Uemura, 61, demanded that Bungeishunju Ltd., which publishes the weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun, and Tsutomu Nishioka, a 63-year-old visiting professor at Reitaku University, pay a total of ¥27.5 million in damages and issue apologies.

Presiding Judge Katsuya Hara ruled Uemura was defamed in an online research paper by Nishioka alleging the 1991 articles were “fabricated” and by similar criticism in the weekly magazine, but the judge denied damages on the grounds the defendants had intended to “serve the public good.”

The ruling also determined the defendants’ claims regarding two articles by Uemura on comfort women “did not deviate from the scope of regular reviews.”

At a news conference, Uemura said he intends to appeal the ruling, which he called “unjust.”

According to the ruling, in the online paper Nishioka alleged Uemura had fabricated a story that a South Korean woman was forcibly taken to a military brothel, and the weekly magazine carried similar articles twice in 2014.

Uemura also claimed his right to live a normal life was violated as the criticism led to threatening calls and letters while he was working as a lecturer at Hokusei Gakuen University in Sapporo.

But the court rejected the claims, saying the defendants “merely questioned” whether Uemura was qualified to be a university lecturer.

“Mr. Nishioka determined my articles had been fabricated without interviewing me, but the court did not make an issue of it,” Uemura said. “This ruling means writers of any fake news can be granted immunity, and so it is unjust and very dangerous.”

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