He’s endured bomb threats and been called a traitor and a liar. Now, much maligned reporter Takashi Uemura is striking back, filing a defamation lawsuit against a university professor and a magazine that have accused him of falsifying his controversial stories about Japan’s WWII era comfort women.
Uemura, who now teaches at Hokkaido’s Hokusei University, worked as a journalist for The Asahi Shimbun in the early 90s, where he wrote two articles about Korean women forced into prostitution by the Japanese army during WWII. The Asahi has since retracted some of its coverage about comfort women, saying that one of the sources cited for stories about this issue (Seiji Yoshida) had been found to have fabricated some of his stories. Even though Uemura’s articles did not cite Yoshida, he is still a frequent target of Japan’s right wing. According to a recent Bloomberg article, Hokusei University has received several anonymous bomb threats that have called for a termination of his contract, while Uemura himself says that he receives a regular slew of hate mail and aggressive phone calls threatening him and his family.
While he may be powerless against those anonymous accusers, Uemura has taken aim at some of his most vocal critics. According to the Associated Press, Uemura filed a defamation lawsuit on January 9 against Tsutomu Nishioka of Tokyo Christian University, and the Bungei Shunju company, after the publisher ran an article in February of last year by the Korean studies professor, calling Uemura a “fabricator.”
Bloomberg says Nishioka and Bungei Shunju reps could not be reached for comment, but the AP noted that the publisher ran an editorial saying it had “full confidence in the article.” Meanwhile, Nishioka told Kyodo News that his piece falls “within the freedom of speech. At a news conference held on January 9, Uemura countered his accuser’s claims by saying, “Some people want to intimidate me by attacking me and my former employer, the Asahi. But I’m not a fabrication journalist, and I will continue to prove that.”
Uemura held up a postcard that accused him of being a traitor, before telling reporters at the news conference, “I am not anti-Japan. I want Japan to become the kind of country that’s really respected as a friend by the rest of Asia. In that sense, I believe I am a patriot.”
Image: “Comfort Women” (Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain)