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Journalist ordered to pay ex-Osaka governor damages over suicide retweet

The Osaka District Court is seen in this file photo taken on Aug. 5, 2016. (Mainichi/Taiji Mukohata)

OSAKA -- A journalist has been ordered by a judge to pay 330,000 yen in compensation to former Osaka Gov. Toru Hashimoto for retweeting a message suggesting staff working under the administrator had been driven to suicide.

Hashimoto had launched a suit seeking 1.1 million yen in compensation for damages at the Osaka District Court from journalist Yasumi Iwakami. On Sept. 12, the presiding judge ordered Iwakami to pay around a third of the originally sought amount, saying about the decision to retweet, "It was an expression indicating agreement with the original post," and deemed it to have been a defamatory act.

According to the court's ruling, in October 2017 Iwakami retweeted onto his own Twitter account a message by a third party suggesting that staff in the prefectural administrative branch under then Gov. Hashimoto was being driven to suicide.

Iwakami subsequently deleted the retweet, but in December of the same year, Hashimoto filed a suit against Iwakami on the basis that the retweet had given the impression that the governor at the time was a person who engages in power harassment.

On Iwakami's act of retweeting, the presiding judge said, "When read normally, it is equivalent with an act of expressing agreement with the original post's content."

With no evidence that the content of the original tweet is true, and because Iwakami was judged to be influential by having over 180,000 Twitter followers, the court recognized that the retweet had diminished Hashimoto's reputation in society.

(Japanese original by Hiroshi Muramatsu, Osaka City News Department)

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