Media watch: Resolution of defamation case better late than never, but still too late

Shin Sugok (

On May 1, the legal affairs website Bengoshidotcom reported on a press conference given by human rights activist Shin Sugok of the citizens group Norikoe Net. Shin talked about the Supreme Court’s decision on April 26 to reject an appeal by the defunct production company DHC TV in its defense against a defamation suit brought by Shin related to a news report broadcast by the program News Joshi in January 2017 on the satellite channel Tokyo MXTV. In Sept. 2021, the Tokyo District Court ruled that the program had defamed Shin, as well as other people who had protested U.S. bases in Okinawa, awarding her ¥5.5 million in compensation. The Supreme Court judgment finalizes the decision and the compensation. It also ordered DHC TV to post an apology on its website to Shin. 

The two-part News Joshi report on the movement to protest the construction of helipads for the U.S. military in the northern part of Okinawa called the protestors “terrorists” and, as translated by Asahi Shimbun, said that Shin had provided “financial support to and agitated participants of the anti-military movement who did not hesitate to use violence and commit criminal activities.” The Tokyo District Court ruled that Shin, in fact, offered ¥50,000 to a “citizen correspondent” to cover airfare so that the writer could report first-hand on the demonstrators’ activities, and that the money’s purpose was not to “instigate the opposition movement.” Following the News Joshi reports, right wing elements on the internet implied, without any proof, that Shin was taking money from Chinese sources to support the anti-base movement. Shin sued DHC TV for spreading fake news through News Joshi, which it produced and whose purpose was to destroy her reputation.

During the press conference on May 1, Shin said that had she lost the case she would have had to live with the label of being “anti-Japanese” for the rest of her life. Given the obsessiveness that right wing elements have brought to the matter of anti-base protests in Okinawa, it’s probably safe to say that they will always consider Shin “anti-Japanese.” In fact, the online abuse she received while the case was ongoing compelled her to flee to Germany in 2018, where she worked at a university. “It was humiliating to run away,” she said. “But some doctors helped me survive.” Shin pointed out that her demonization was intensified by two incontrovertible realities that her oppressors find intolerable: her family background is Korean, and she is a woman. So although she did in the end win her case, in the greater scheme of things “they succeeded,” she said, because they were able to “silence a Korean woman,” which was their aim. 

Another point that Shin wanted to make was that discrimination, whether it be against ethnic and sexual minorities or women, is big business. DHC TV was run by the cosmetics and health supplement company DHC, whose CEO is a famous racist and right-wing opinion leader. News Joshi was cancelled some years ago, and for all intents and purposes, DHC TV no longer exists since it changed its name to Toranomon Television. There has been speculation that these changes came about, at least in part, due to the lawsuit, and the ¥5.5 million in compensation that the courts awarded Shin is significant, since she asked for ¥11 million. When Japanese courts do rule in favor of plaintiffs in defamation cases they usually award amounts that are a very small portion of the money demanded, so half should mean something. But as Shin indicated at the press conference, in the end, the people who spread fake news about the Okinawan demonstrations got what they wanted because the public probably doesn’t even know about the resolution of the case. The mainstream media mostly stopped covering it after the suit was filed. The loudest voices always get the most attention, even when they are spouting lies. 

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