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Security firm gave instructions to photograph reporters in Henoko base area: source

Prominent reporter Akira Ikegami, center, is seen in this photo while reporting off the coast of Henoko in the Okinawa Prefecture city of Nago, on Jan. 6, 2016. (Image partially modified)

A firm contracted by the government to conduct security work off the coast of the Henoko area of Nago in Japan's southernmost prefecture of Okinawa photographed prominent journalist Akira Ikegami even though he was merely doing reporting work there, the Mainichi has found.

A person familiar with the company said that the firm had given instructions to photograph reporters in the area -- the planned relocation site of a U.S. military base -- and the Mainichi Shimbun obtained a copy of the image in question.

It earlier emerged that the same company, Tokyo-based Risingsun Security Service Co., created a list showing names and photos of people opposed to the relocation of the military base. The government explained that this was done for security purposes, but the recent finding that a journalist was photographed casts doubt on the explanation.

A person who was involved in security for the firm told the Mainichi, "Instructions were received from the company to photograph armbands and identify the mass media doing reporting." The images are said to have been stored at a local office.

Ikegami was photographed on Jan. 6, 2016. A security worker captured an image of him while he was reporting for a TV Asahi program that was aired on Jan. 30 that year. Ikegami was in a boat wearing a life jacket along with other people believed to be staff members.

The person involved in security for the company said that the boat Ikegami was in had sailed carefully outside an area that had temporarily been set as off-limits. The person said Ikegami was photographed while he was outside the restricted area.

Risingsun Security Service Co. previously explained that it had photographed all boats that entered the temporarily restricted area despite repeated warnings. Minister of Defense Takeshi Iwaya stated during a House of Representatives Budget Committee meeting on Feb. 22 he understood that people were photographed within the scope of security purposes for the maintenance of safety.

When the Mainichi Shimbun approached Risingsun Security Service Co. about its purpose of photographing people and whether it currently retained any images, a representative had stated, "We do not provide responses regarding individual security jobs."

Ikegami stated, "We carried out our reporting while being careful not to enter the restricted area. This was not individual reporting, but news coverage for the recording of a TV Asahi program, so I'd like you to check the TV station for details."

TV Asahi's public relations division said in a written response, "As is conventional, we do not respond regarding the reporting and production process for programs."

(Japanese original by Yoshitake Matsuura, Osaka City News Department)

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