Statement Concerning the Acts of Intimidation Made against Hokusei Gakuin University and One of Its Instructors, etc.
In response to a series of threats being made against Hokusei Gakuin University (Sapporo-City, Hokkaido) (the “University”) where a former Asahi Shimbun (one of the main national daily newspapers in Japan) reporter who wrote articles regarding the issues relating to the Korean “comfort women” forced to work during wartime for the Japanese army is working as an instructor, demanding that the University lay off the former reporter, and threatening harm to the students thereof if their demands went unmet, the University announced its decision on December 17, 2014 that it would retain the employment of the former reporter for the 2015 Fiscal Year.
Menacing messages, referring to the former Asahi Shimbun reporter’s articles about the “comfort women” related issues, were sent to the University where the former reporter has been working to the effect that if the University failed to adhere to their demands, students may be harmed. The threats included wording such as: “we will kill the former reporter little by little;” and “the University should fire him, or we will injure your students,” etc. Furthermore, it was reported that threats were made against not only the former reporter, but also his family members whose names and photos were exposed on the Internet, together with some threatening remarks.
These acts constitute intimidation and forcible obstruction of business as stipulated in the Penal Code. Moreover, demanding the dismissal of the former reporter due to a reason entirely irrelevant to his educational and research activities as a university instructor, in turn, jeopardize academic freedom and the autonomy of universities. In addition, the fact that the articles the former reporter once wrote were not specifically criticized by way of argument, but rather the reporter and related persons were threatened regarding the contents of such articles, may lead to the intimidation of the news gathering and press activities of reporters, and such intimidation may infringe upon the public’s right to know and thus lead to a gradual erosion of the very foundations of our democratic society. Such acts should not and must not ever be tolerated.
It is commendable that the University did not yield to such threats as those described above, and that they decided to renew the employment of the former reporter, as this greatly helped to protect the freedom of education, the autonomy of universities and freedom of expression, despite the risks posed.
The JFBA expresses its determination to never allow the success of such despicable acts of intimidation as those posed to the University and once again confirms that it will continue to make its utmost effort to protect the freedoms surrounding news gathering and the press, (the freedom of speech in general) as well as the people’s right to know in a democratic society.
December 25, 2014
Japan Federation of Bar Associations