When real names are disclosed in crime-related reporting, who will be the beneficiary and in what ways?
Conversely, who might incur losses?
In this article, I will outline the merits and demerits of crime-related real-name reporting for each party involved.
I hope this article serves as a catalyst for contemplating crime reporting in Japan.
Relatives on the Victim’s Side:
When individuals on the victim’s side see real-name reporting, it may create a sense that the perpetrator has been identified.
The media bashing can provide a temporary sense of retribution.
However, there remains a risk of misunderstanding, treating someone who is merely a suspect as the actual perpetrator.
Relatives on the Suspect’s Side:
It would be a tragedy to be mistakenly treated as a criminal.
Due to the substitute prison system, one may be unjustly detained for an extended period, subjected to treatment akin to torture, and coerced into making a confession.
In Japan, uniquely among advanced countries, not even the presence of a lawyer is allowed during such circumstances.
Even if the actual criminal is eventually arrested and the one who was mistakenly arrested is released, the practicality of returning to work becomes impossible.
And acquaintances and friends avoid the released person, making social life untenable and causing life to spiral out of control.
Families of the mistakenly accused also experience the same tragedy.
If the accused has children, they may face bullying at school and might be forced to drop out.
Their landing jobs becomes challenging, and even engagements may be broken off.
It is unjustifiable to endure such hardships without any wrongdoing.
Even in cases of arrests made in the act, it cannot be asserted that there are no mistakes or misunderstandings.
Regardless of whether the suspect is genuinely the perpetrator, real-name reporting should not take place until the individual is publicly recognized as a criminal through legal proceedings.
Strict rules are necessary to prevent irreversible miscarriages of justice.
For those on the suspect’s side, real-name reporting entails only disadvantages.
By engaging in real-name reporting, the media can impress viewers as if the information is credible, leading to increased viewership and higher sales figures for newspapers and magazines.
Consequently, benefits such as increased advertising revenue can be enjoyed.
As the information is based on police announcements or leaks, there is no accountability even if it turns out to be a false accusation.
Excuses such as “other media outlets are doing it, so it shouldn’t be a problem” are also possible.
Regardless of the risks of false accusations, real-name reporting becomes a matter of who does it first.
It is a reckless act that doesn’t consider the consequences.
However, those in the media industry can collectively avoid a sense of guilt.
There is nothing more terrifying than the irresponsibility brought about by group psychology.
Does the media believe that real-name reporting has only merits and no drawbacks?
When real-name reporting occurs, individuals who are merely suspects may be impressed upon as if they are actual criminals.
The combination of a real name and a face makes the reported content more believable, and it may also stimulate intellectual curiosity.
It becomes easier to enjoy the content as entertainment in front of the television.
Even if it later turns out to be a false accusation, it can be dismissed with a casual “Oh, is that so?”
It’s just someone else, after all, and there is no sense of guilt.
Experiencing losses due to making incorrect judgments based on false information is likely a minority occurrence.
Police and Prosecution:
Engaging in real-name reporting may make it easier to garner public cooperation, even when a suspect is on the run, potentially aiding in the investigation.
Furthermore, shaping public opinion to believe “this person must be the criminal” allows for exerting pressure on conservative judges.
Given that Japan’s criminal justice system is at a medieval level compared to Europe, the fabrication and concealment of evidence are common practices.
As suspects are not even allowed the presence of a lawyer during interrogations, they are overwhelmingly disadvantaged.
The prosecution, leveraging this overwhelmingly advantageous position, enjoys the benefit of a near 100% conviction rate at the time of indictment.
However, if the suspect is not the perpetrator, the real criminal may go unpunished, leading to the risk of repeated crimes.
In the case of a false accusation, there is no way to undo the damage.
Even with compensation, former suspects cannot reset their lives.
Apologies alone are not sufficient for individuals whose lives have been severely disrupted.
Taking proper responsibility, especially for individuals with impressive titles, is challenging.
Many often resort to feeble excuses or covering up the truth.
If a “capable” subordinate who caters to the wishes of their superiors handles the case, there is a high likelihood of descending into a quagmire.
Relying on real-name reporting at the suspect stage and similar measures should be avoided.
Instead, a fair investigation and reliable judicial procedures would, in the long run, serve the interests of the police and prosecution better.
Adhering to the fundamental principle of criminal cases—”It is better to let ten guilty persons escape than to convict one innocent one”—is crucial.
Those in Power:
Sensational reporting using real names has the effect of diverting the public’s attention.
It allows criticism to be redirected away from the current authorities.
Media outlets, catering to the wishes of those in power who are troubled by low approval ratings due to scandals, dramatically showcase real-name reporting of suspects.
All of this, without considering the risk of false accusations…
Even if a false accusation is revealed, it is a simple matter to dispose of someone involved.
The powerful remain secure.
The primary beneficiary of real-name reporting at the suspect stage is mainly those in power.
While the media gains benefits from reporting the real names of suspects, it neglects its fundamental duty of criticizing those in power.
By avoiding the cumbersome and risky work and prioritizing self-preservation, the media falls short of being true journalism.
The situation where the real names of individuals who are only suspects are exposed is nothing but a detriment to the general public.
Even with real-name reporting in the news, it does not contribute to identifying the causes of crimes or preventing recurrences.
Until a verdict is confirmed in court, anonymous reporting should be acceptable, and it should be the norm.
Engaging in public execution based on mere rumors is evidence of a mentally backward state.
Does my spine shiver alone at the current state of Japan with a low awareness of human rights?
I would appreciate it if you could all think about this together.