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2013年6月 5日 (水)

検察の懲戒請求 報道の自由が侵されかねない

The Yomiuri Shimbun June 5, 2013
Prosecutors' action may limit freedom of news reporting
検察の懲戒請求 報道の自由が侵されかねない(6月4日付・読売社説)

Recent action by prosecutors may have a chilling effect on those who would cooperate with reporters as news sources.

The Osaka District Public Prosecutors Office has asked the Osaka Bar Association to impose disciplinary action against a lawyer who provided NHK with video footage of questioning by prosecutors, disclosed earlier as evidence in court.

The prosecutors called for disciplinary action as they considered the provision of the footage to be use of evidence for other than its original purpose, which is prohibited by the Criminal Procedure Law.

The prohibition was established when the range of evidence to be disclosed by the prosecution to the defense was expanded under a revision of the law in 2004.

Remember law’s purpose

It is designed to prevent evidence leaks from leading to intimidation of witnesses or invasion of privacy of those involved with the case.

This can be considered a provision necessary to secure fair judicial procedures. But it is questionable whether the application of this provision to the latest case is justifiable.

The footage recorded a verbal exchange that appeared to contradict a statement made on the basis of a “confession” of a defendant charged with inflicting bodily injury resulting in death. This turned out to be one reason for the court to hand down a not-guilty ruling.

The lawyer offered the footage to NHK only after the ruling was finalized. The footage had been replayed at a public trial, with the courtroom spectators seeing it. The lawyer reportedly obtained prior consent of the former defendant before handing the video to the broadcaster.

When airing the footage in its program, NHK took measures to protect the defendant’s privacy by obscuring the face and changing the voice.

It is unlikely that the provision of the footage and its broadcast on TV adversely affected the court ruling or defamed those concerned.

The lawyer has explained that he “wanted to inform the public about the real situation of the prosecutors’ questioning.”

It can be said that providing such evidence for the purpose of examining how criminal investigations should be conducted is sufficiently within the public interest.

Regarding the prohibition on the use of evidence for other than its original purposes, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations called for, at the time of the law revision, allowing exceptions to the prohibition in cases when there is a good reason.

The Japan Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association has also expressed its opinion saying, “There is a great fear [of the prohibition] leading to the restriction of news gathering.”

Consider the context

The issue has also been taken up for discussion in the Diet, where it has been proposed that a clause be added to the law to state that in suspected cases of its violation, “the purpose of the action, the way the action is taken, or whether there is a possible defamation of those concerned, should be taken into consideration.”

Did the Osaka prosecutors office sufficiently examine the case from these perspectives?

In March, a man was indicted for allegedly posting on a video site some disclosed evidence, including crime scene photos showing a victim. Such a malicious case should be dealt with strictly.

But if the provision of information in the public interest is deliberately put into question by prosecutors, it may lead to infringement on the freedom of reporting and news gathering.

It should not be forgotten that evidence gathered through the use of public authority is not the exclusive property of the prosecutors. It is public goods.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 4, 2013)
(2013年6月4日01時12分  読売新聞)


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