By David McNeil
The watchdog role of journalists in Japan is on trial in several cases with enormous implications for freedom of the press here
In a summer laden with portentous anniversaries, several important skirmishes between journalists and the people they keep tabs on passed by almost unnoticed.
In July, Matsuoka Toshiyasu, president of the Rokusaisha publishing company, was arrested on a deformation charge that has editors across the country nervously consulting their rolodexes for libel lawyers.
In the same month, the Tokyo District Court heard the opening salvos in an anti-government suit by former Mainichi political reporter Nishiyama Takichi, which may ultimately expand — or more likely shrink — the limits of press freedom in Japan.
And Dutch journalist Hans van der Lugt waded in with support for freelancer Yu Terasawa’s suit against the press club system, which both men hope will put the final nail in the coffin of this much criticized, government-sponsored wing of Japan Inc.
All three cases have serious implications for how journalists here do their jobs, but observers say that with the possible exception of the press club fight, the balance is likely to tip in favor of the powerful.