Freelance journalist murdered

New York, September 17, 2003—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is gravely concerned by the recent murder of Japanese freelance journalist Satoru Someya and is conducting an investigation to determine if he was killed for his work.

On September 12, police found Someya’s body near a pier in Tokyo Bay. The exact time of his death is not known, although an autopsy determined that Someya had been dead for one to two weeks, according to Japanese press reports.

Someya’s body was wrapped in a weighted chain, his hands were tied with rope, and he had eight stab wounds in his back and two gashes in his head, according to police reports. Someya had been missing since September 5, when he last spoke by phone with a magazine editor.

Someya, 38, reported for various magazines about organized crime in Tokyo under the pen name Kuragaki Kashiwabara. In July, he published a book titled Kabukicho Underground about Chinese criminal groups operating in Kabukicho, Tokyo’s notorious red light district.

The motive for Someya’s murder is unclear. In the postscript to Kabukicho Underground, the journalist wrote that he might be in danger because of his investigations, according to press reports. However, police have also said that Someya may have been in financial trouble, and that he owed money to several acquaintances. Tokyo police are currently investigating the murder.

Violent attacks against journalists in Japan are very rare. On May 3, 1987, an unidentified gunman shot and killed Asahi Shimbun reporter Tomohiro Kojiri. No one was ever convicted of the murder, and the statute of limitations on the case expired in May 2002.