Reporters Without Borders hailed the Tokyo High Court’s decision overturning the city federal court’s action against a journalist on national TV and radio NHK for refusing to reveal his sources.
The high court ruling on 17 March 2006 was similar to one taken by the Niigata federal court last October, which upheld his right not to reveal the sources which allowed him to report on a case of tax fraud by an agro-food business.
However Tokyo’s federal court is continuing its action against journalist on Yomiuri Shimbun for refusing to reveal sources in the same case.
“The protection of one’s sources is the basis of investigative journalism,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We therefore welcome the high court’s decision to uphold this principle and thereby allow Japanese investigative journalism to continue. We strongly hope for the same outcome in the case of the Yomiuri Shimbun journalist”, said Reporters Without Borders.
In October 1997, a journalist on NHK, as well as one on Yomiuri Shimbun, revealed that the Japanese branch of a US agro-food business had hidden income of 8 billion yen (nearly 55 million euros) from the tax authorities.
On 14 mars 2006, Tokyo’s federal court ordered the Yomiuri Shimbun journalist to reveal his sources in the case. The federal court justified its order, which ran contrary to the law on protection of sources handed down by the Supreme Court in 1978, arguing that information could have come from an official who had violated professional confidentiality.
In an article carried by the daily in October 1997, the journalist referred to a tax official without naming him.
The federal court judge ruled: “Allowing a journalist to refuse to reveal his sources would be tantamount to being indirectly involved in protecting a criminal act. This is absolutely unacceptable (...) and does not deserve legal protection. Furthermore, journalists should not be able to protect the confidentiality of their sources when they implicate a public official.”