(Sankei: January 16, 2015 – p. 2)
Is this an act that a country with which Japan shares the universal values of freedom, democracy, and rule of law can be proud of? Its abnormality stands out even more amid the spread of the movement to defend freedom of speech and freedom of the press in the world.
The ban on former Sankei Shimbun Seoul Bureau chief Tatsuya Kato to depart from the ROK has been extended for another three months. Kato is being indicted without arrest for allegedly defaming President Park Geun-hye. This is the eighth extension and Kato has not been able to leave South Korea for a total of eight months.
The Seoul central district court applied for the extension and this was approved by the justice minister. Yet, court proceedings have already begun and there is no risk of destruction of evidence. Kato will not flee nor go into hiding and there is no possibility of his escaping. There is no basis for keeping him in South Korea even under the ROK immigration law.
His indictment is outrageous in the first place. Wielding state power to deal with reporting that displeases the administration runs counter to the principles of a democratic state.
It is also unusual for the indictment to proceed without President Park expressing her feelings as the victim. She did not answer questions on this issue at her New Year news conference.
Kato’s car was surrounded by a mob when he was leaving the courtroom after the first hearing of his case and they hurled eggs and other objects at the car. The police officers just looked on. Kato is dealing with such an abnormal situation.
A total of 3.7 million people, including the leaders of the UK, Germany, and dozens of other countries, participated in a demonstration in France to protest the shooting at a weekly newspaper which published cartoons featuring the Islamic prophet. In the U.S., a comedy film about a plan to assassinate North Korea’s First Secretary Kim Jong Un was shown in defiance of terrorist threats.
There is a growing movement in the world to defend freedom of expression. The ban on Kato runs counter to this groundswell of international public opinion. (Slightly abridged)