[JURIST] A court in Japan [JURIST news archive] has ruled that journalists have a right not to disclose the identities of their sources. The Tokyo High Court [official backgrounder] on Wednesday reversed a district court order that a newspaper reporter testify in an American company's lawsuit against the US government. Presiding Judge Nobuo Akatsuka wrote in the High Court's ruling that allowing reporters to keep sources secret ensures that the government does not interfere with the freedom of the press, which is guaranteed by the Japanese Constitution [text]. The High Court rejected the lower court's stance [Japan Times report] that journalists cannot refuse to disclose the name of a public servant who violates a duty to keep job secrets. The decision departs from previous Japanese court rulings, which balanced the freedom of the press against the need for fair trials.
The case dates to a 1997 article in Tokyo's Yomiuri Shimbun reporting that the Japanese subsidiary of a US health food company had been penalized by the Tokyo Regional Tax Bureau for underreporting profits. The company sued the US government, alleging its reputation had been damaged by erroneous information that US officials gave to their Japanese counterparts. The Tokyo District Court deposed the reporter on behalf of the US District Court of Arizona [official website]. Yomiuri Shimbun has more. The Japan Times has additional coverage.