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Abandonment of the claim against a Japanese journalist

Published on Thursday 6 August 2009. Updated on Monday 31 August 2009.
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Reporters Without Borders is relieved to learn that the Japanese music chart company Oricon finally abandonned its defamation action against freelance journalist Hiro Ugaya on 3 August after 33 months. It brought the suit against Ugaya in November 2006 for casting doubt on the validity of its pop music rankings in an interview for the magazine Saizo.

“We welcome Oricon’s decision to abandon its action as it was clear from the outset that the allegations against Ugaya were meaningless,” Reporters Without Borders said.

The lawsuit filed by Oricon on 17 November 2006 accused Ugaya of “mendacious comments” and demanded 50 million yen (318,000 euros) in damages. In his interview for the magazine Saizo (or Cyso), Ugaya questioned the validity Oricon’s hit chart on the grounds that its statistical methods were not transparent.

Many NGOs including Reporters Without Borders denounced the lawsuit as a violation of free expression. A Tokyo District Court initially ordered Ugaya to pay 1 million yen (7,400 euros) in damages but Ugaya appealed to the Tokyo high court.

Oricon’s decision to drop the action is extremely unusual in Japan. According to Japanese supreme court figures, only 0.1 per cent of the cases closed in 2007 were terminated as a result of the plaintiff’s decision to abandon the claim.

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