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High court dismisses music company's lawsuit against freelance journalist

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is relieved to learn that a defamation action against freelance journalist Hiro Ugaya was finally dismissed on 3 August 2009 after 33 months. The suit was brought against Ugaya by Japanese music chart company Oricon in November 2006 for casting doubt on the validity of its pop music rankings in an interview for the magazine "Saizo".

"We hail this court decision as it was clear from the outset that the allegations against Ugaya were without merit," Reporters Without Borders said.

The lawsuit filed by Oricon on 17 November 2006 accused Ugaya of "mendacious comments" and demanded 50 million yen (318,000 euros) in damages. In his interview for the magazine "Saizo" (or "Cyso"), Ugaya questioned the impartiality of Oricon's album sales rankings, pointing out that Oricon itself produced some of the albums.

Many NGOs, including Reporters Without Borders, denounced the lawsuit as a violation of free expression. A Tokyo court initially ordered Ugaya to pay 1 million yen (7,400 euros) in damages but Ugaya appealed to the Tokyo high court, which finally ruled in his favour. As a result, he will not have to pay any damages or issue any apology.

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