Dec. 2003 – No. 5
On Dec. 22, 2003, the Tokyo District Court ruled that journalist Masao Okkotsu (also known as “Otsukotsu”) was guilty of libel due to an article published in the magazine Forum 21 about Indian scholar Neelakantha Radhakrishnan. The case further ordered Okkotsu, known for his anti-Soka Gakkai articles, to pay damages.
In the August 2002 issue of Forum 21, Okkotsu, who also served as publisher, wrote that Dr. Radhakrishnan is “a questionable figure who has been prosecuted by the Indian government in 1982 as a ‘problem figure,’” “a problematic figure who fills his pockets by collecting huge sums of money” and that he is “well known among intellectuals in India for randomly giving out commendations in return for their donations.”
Throughout the trial, it was proven that Okkotsu had mistaken Dr. N. Radhakrishnan with “K.S. Radakrishna,” a completely different figure.
In February 1987, Okkotsu read about an article entitled “A Report by the Indian Government accusing Radhakrishnan” in the Japanese weekly Shukan Jitsuwa. Okkotsu was given this information from Isao Dan, a tabloid journalist, and introduced its contents in the Keimei Newspaper, a publication produced by the Shoshinkai, a group of priests excommunicated from Nichiren Shoshu in the 1980’s, and publicly opposed to the Soka Gakkai. It later became apparent that the Indian government did not publish the article, nor was it written about Dr. N. Radhakrishnan.
(Okkotsu received only the first page of the booklet, and did not confirm the contents.)
Presiding Judge Yoshihiro Katayama pointed out that “if he (Okkotsu) had confirmed the producer and the contents of the booklet, it should have been easy to realize that this was not an investigative report produced by the Indian government or that there was no description of the plaintiff (Dr. N. Radhakrishnan) but of K.S. Radakrishna.” Okkotsu also claimed that he had “heard opinions from Puran Debi, a member of the Indian parliament in April 2000.”
The court condemned him stating that “defendant Okkotsu himself testified that when he questioned Debi about the plaintiff, he was unsure whether or not he correctly pronounced the name ‘Radhakrishnan’ with an ‘n’ at the end” and that “there is a possibility that Debi’s opinion regarding K.S. Rada krishna.” The court accused Okkotsu of poor interviewing skills adding “the defendant Okkotsu did not ask more specific questions or conduct other interviews in order to confirm Debi’s statements.”
Okkotsu was also charged with “sharing completely incorrect information regarding the plaintiff and mistaking him for another individual … there was absolutely no room for an excuse.”
In Jan. 2003, the Tokyo High Court ordered Okkotsu to pay damages to the Soka Gakkai for spreading groundless rumors pertaining to a cemetery in Hokkaido. In Nov. 2003, the Supreme Court ruled against Okkotsu for alleging that the Soka Gakkai was involved in the tax evasion case of the Nichiren School at Mount Minobu. And in December 2003, Okkotsu was ordered by the Supreme Court to pay damages to the Soka Gakkai for fabricating its involvement in a land speculation scandal in Tokyo.
Interview with Morio Miyahara, attorney for Dr. Radhakrishnan
The Tokyo District Court recently ordered Masao Okkotsu, as well as Forum Corporation which publishes Forum 21, to pay damages for defaming Dr. N. Radhakrishnan, a renowned Gandhist of India.
In the hearings, Okkotsu testified that he had actually never read the document “Research Report by the Indian Government” which he quoted in his article to criticize Dr. Radhakrishnan’s behavior. After close examination of the report submitted to the court, it was discovered that the report was not in fact a “Research Report by the Indian Government,” nor did it concern Dr. Radhakrishnan in any way. They could not find any contents that the defendant Okkotsu quoted in his article. Thus, it became clear that he used reports carried by other weekly magazines to write article in question.
Once the case was decided, Okkotsu argued that he should not have to pay damages because Dr. Radhakrishnan is unknown in Japan, and therefore the libel case is without merit. However, the court rejected these claims and strictly admonished him for “sharing completely incorrect information and that there was absolutely no room for excuse.”
Okkotsu has been ordered by the court as many as three times to pay damages to the Soka Gakkai due to libelous and unfounded reports. I think it is apparent that he fails in his most fundamental attitude as journalist to report based on facts.
(From Seikyo Shimbun, Feb. 26, 2004)