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MARCH 16, 2004
Posted: April 16, 2004

Shukan Bunshun

The Tokyo District Court issued an injunction banning the March 25 issue of the weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun, which included an article about Manako Tanaka, the eldest daughter of Makiko Tanaka, a member of Japan's House of Representatives. According to news reports, the article alleged that Manako married despite opposition from her parents, and that she was divorced a year later, after which she returned to Japan from Los Angeles.

The injunction stated that the magazine's publisher could not sell, give away, or turn over the magazine to a third party unless the article in question was eliminated. However, by the time the order was issued, the publisher had already delivered about 740,000 copies of the magazine to newsstands and bookstores, having withheld 30,000 unshipped copies. The injunction did not include an order to recall the shipped copies, and did not restrict stores from selling the already distributed copies. According to local media, most of the shipped copies were sold, partly because of increased interest in the publication because of the injunction.

On March 19, the District Court upheld the injunction, rejecting an objection filed by Shukan Bunshun's publisher, Bungeishunju Ltd., on March 17. Bungeishunju Ltd. sent the issue free of charge to regular subscribers after removing the article and appealed the case to the Tokyo High Court, arguing that Manako was a public figure as the child of a politician.

On March 31, the High Court overruled the injunction against Shukan Bunshun. While the High Court agreed that the article was an infringement of privacy and rejected the publisher's argument that Manako was a public figure, the court ruled that the injunction limited freedom of expression, and that the article did not cause "irrecoverable damage" to Manako.

On April 3, Manako decided against appealing the High Court ruling, noting that Bungeishunju Ltd. had said it would not sell any remaining copies of the magazine. On April 6, the High Court ruling overturning the injunction became final.

The case sparked debate among Japanese journalists about the right to privacy versus the right to freedom of expression and, according to some observers, had a chilling effect on the media, especially since the criteria used in granting the injunction remain ambiguous.