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2009年7月 6日 (月)


--The Asahi Shimbun, July 3(IHT/Asahi: July 4,2009)
EDITORIAL: Hashimoto's TV remarks

Once again, a court of law harshly criticized comments made by Osaka Governor Toru Hashimoto when he was a lawyer-television personality.

In spring 2007, Hashimoto, on a television show produced by Osaka-based Yomiuri Telecasting Corp., commented on the case of a mother and her baby daughter who were murdered in 1999 in Hikari, Yamaguchi Prefecture.
Hashimoto criticized the tactics of the defense team of the accused, who was a minor at the time of the crime.
"If you cannot forgive the lawyers, I urge you to file requests for punitive action against them," Hashimoto said.

The defense team, which was flooded with a barrage of disciplinary requests, filed for damages.
On Thursday, the Hiroshima High Court ordered Hashimoto to pay 3.6 million yen in damages.

A lower court had ruled that part of Hashimoto's remarks was defamatory.
The high court, after examining the TV program, did not uphold the defamation decision and lowered the amount of damages. But the decision still represents a second loss for Hashimoto.

Hashimoto claimed that the intention of his comment was to explain the disciplinary system.
But the ruling said: "While knowing as a lawyer that there was no ground for requesting disciplinary action, (Hashimoto) made a misleading comment to give the impression there was a reason and appealed to viewers in an exaggerated manner."

Naturally, it is wrong to request punitive action without a reason.

A person who requests disciplinary measures based on a false reason could be held criminally responsible.

Hashimoto should accept the ruling and reflect on his remarks.

The high court ruling said Hashimoto one-sidedly criticized the defense team even though he did not have enough information to debate the right or wrong of its arguments.

The ruling also said the comment wrongly implied that bar associations would have no choice but to impose punishment if viewers sought disciplinary action en masse.

The high court recognized the illegality of Hashimoto's action.
"(Hashimoto) used television broadcasts as a medium with an overwhelming influence and, while mixing in falsehoods, called on viewers to take part in criticizing the defense team," the ruling said.

Hashimoto said he would seriously accept the ruling that determined his comment was illegal. But he also expressed his intention to appeal, saying, "I wish to seek a decision on how far freedom of speech is recognized."

While he is free to appeal to a higher court, his attitude is difficult to understand.

As governor, we give him high marks for his ability to speak up and take action.

For example, he was the driving force behind the change in the central government's policy of requiring local governments to foot part of the bill for public works projects ordered by the central government.

When the new strain of swine flu spread, he objected to the way the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare was dealing with the disease.

His skills to challenge government policies or make demands on political parties by winning over public opinion with his sharp tongue are something to be reckoned with.

At a time when a change of government could come true, Hashimoto may play a leading role in making decentralization a major political issue.

That is all the more why he should graciously apologize to the defense team and end the prolonged controversy.

We think that is a requirement he must meet to make a leap forward as a politician.


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