No justice for murdered Asahi Shimbun reporter

Kojiri Tomohiro
photo: courtesy of Asahi Shimbun

New York, May 2, 2002—CPJ regrets that 15 years after the murder of Japanese journalist Tomohiro Kojiri, a reporter for the daily Asahi Shimbun, no one has been brought to justice for this crime. The statute of limitations on his case expired tonight at midnight, Tokyo time.

National Police Agency chief Setsuo Tanaka told reporters today that police would continue to investigate the murder as part of a broader inquiry into other attacks on Asahi Shimbun offices. However no one can now be prosecuted for Kojiri’s murder.

“CPJ is deeply disappointed that the murder of our colleague Tomohiro Kojiri was never prosecuted, despite extensive efforts by police to find his killer,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “Around the world, crimes against journalists tend to go unpunished, creating a climate of impunity that makes the press more vulnerable to attack.”

At about 8:00 p.m. on May 3, 1987, an unidentified gunman entered the newsroom of the Nishinomiya bureau of Asahi Shimbun and shot Kojiri in his chest and armpit, according to Japanese news reports. He died soon after. The assailant also shot Kojiri’s colleague Hyoe Inukai, who was seriously injured in the attack but recovered.

Immediately following Kojiri’s murder, a previously unknown group called Sekihotai sent a letter to the Kyodo News Agency claiming responsibility. The letter stated that, “We do not accept anyone who betrays Japan. We sentence all Asahi Shimbun employees to death,” according to a report in the newspaper Mainichi Shimbun.

Asahi Shimbun, one of Japan’s most liberal dailies, often criticizes government policies, and nationalist groups have repeatedly targeted the paper for attack.

The Hyogo Prefecture Police Department assigned a special task force to investigate the murder, but investigators made little progress in tracking down the assailant. Although Sekihotai has been accused of a number of attacks against Asahi Shimbun, police have not yet identified any members of the group.

Kojiri, who was 29 at the time of his death, is survived by his wife, Yuko Kojiri, and a 17-year-old daughter, Miki.