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Kyoto Animation massacre puts Japan's media at crossroads on disclosure – The Japan Times

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The horrific Kyoto Animation Co. arson attack that killed 36 people and injured 33 others in July could very well be remembered as a pivotal moment in the Japanese media’s coverage of crime victims.

Domestic media refrained from excessively covering the relatives of those hurt or killed at the studio in Kyoto’s Fushimi Ward, but also explained their rationale for disclosing the victims’ names over their families’ objections.

Reporters on the scene agonized over how to cover the tragedy professionally while taking into account the feelings of the next of kin, who were in the midst of processing their grief.

Families in the meantime were afraid the reputations of their loved ones would be tarnished on social media once their names were released.

Ultimately, many news organizations felt that attaching names and faces to the tragedy, instead of just figures, would humanize it.

Media customs regarding disclosure differ from country to country and by organization.

In the United States and Britain, for example, disclosure of accident or crime victims’ names is widely practiced, with the public’s right to know taking precedence. Germany and South Korea, on the other hand, withhold victims’ names in principle to prioritize privacy.

Reporters covering the arson attack in Kyoto were bewildered because each news organization’s reporting activities were exposed on the internet, often resulting in public criticism of their coverage.

The attack on Kyoto Animation, abbreviated KyoAni, took place on July 18. But the victims’ names were released in stages, starting with 10 on Aug. 2, then 25 on Aug. 27. The 36th victim died in early October.

Why did it take so long?

The Kyoto Prefectural Police made contact with the next to kin for consent to release the victims’ names and to ask whether anyone in the family would agree to a media interview. The National Police Agency also instructed the Kyoto police to get consent before releasing any names. Of the 36 victims’ families, 22 declined.

According to a petition claiming a violation of human rights brought to the Kyoto Bar Association in early December, even though the Kyoto police told news outlets that family members had refused to release victims’ names, they did so anyway.

Some argue that disclosure is vital in reporting major criminal cases or accidents accurately and providing valuable lessons for society.

Both national dailies and local papers ran reports on the KyoAni attack using the names released by the police. At the same time, they cooperated to avoid engaging in excessive coverage.

For example, representatives from each organization visited the families and others concerned instead of mobbing them with the usual media scrum and immediately left when their requests were rejected. They also shared information amongst themselves on the families’ reactions.

The Asahi Shimbun and many other newspapers also explained their reasons for naming the victims.

In its coverage, the Mainichi Shimbun decided to offer a detailed explanation of why it chose to name the victims, paying due consideration to the families and avoid media scrums.

On the day after the names of 25 victims were announced, the Mainichi ran an article on its stance on releasing the names and included past cases where it chose to withhold names.

“Speaking from my experience of being a reporter covering incidents and accidents, I think a name offers ‘proof of living,’” said freelance journalist Akihiro Otani in the Mainichi’s Sept. 16 edition.

“There were people who came to the scene of the incident, saying ‘Because I knew the names I felt the need to come to offer my prayers.’ … Reporting names in the media is a manifestation of the resolve not to allow a victim’s life to fade away with time.”

The Kyoto Shimbun released a story on distressed KyoAni reporters under the headline “Torn over the risks of hurting bereaved families” in its Aug. 18 edition. On Aug. 28, the daily also reported on an in-house debate it held on whether anonymous coverage truly conveys the families’ grief to readers.

While the Kyoto daily decided to post photos after receiving consent in principle, the reporters reached an agreement, endorsed by senior editors, not to cover the wakes and funerals, according to Shigetaka Meguro, a managing director in the general news section.

Just rattling off such reasons as the “right to know,” “matter of record” and public disclosure being “common sense abroad” may not hold much sway with grief-stricken families. Experts argue that more convincing justification is needed.

At a third-party meeting organized by Kyodo News in November, journalist Yasushi Kamada made the point that “The rationale of releasing names because there is a ‘right to know’ is not a persuasive argument for the average person.”

Masahiro Sogabe, a professor of information law at Kyoto University’s graduate school, posed the question, “Are victims’ names for public purview? I think the people involved and their families’ intentions should also be respected.”

In the United States, the names of the deceased are usually disclosed after their next of kin are notified but are sometimes withheld in sex-related crimes or cases involving minors.

In Britain, police have worked out a guideline with media outlets stipulating that victims names are to be disclosed once their families have been notified. If the victim is alive, they need to get consent from the victim or the next of kin.

In Germany, victims’ names are usually withheld except in the case of public figures. In principle, protection of privacy also applies to perpetrators. But their given names, along with the first letter of their surnames, appear in media reports. Full names and photos of the accused, however, can be revealed at each news organization’s discretion in high-profile cases.

Korean media do not report names except in cases involving celebrities because the police refuse to release them under a law protecting crime victims. Perpetrators’ names are also withheld, though exceptions are sometimes made for particularly heinous crimes.

The detailed explanation provided by newspapers as well as media reports on how this issue has sparked internal debate at news outlets in the wake of the KyoAni attack suggest a new direction for media coverage in Japan.

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Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck pictured kissing as ‘Bennifer’ returns

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Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck have been pictured exchanging passionate kisses, apparently confirming weeks of fevered rumors that they have rekindled a romance that dominated celebrity media almost 20 years ago.

Paparazzi photos printed in the New York Post on Monday showed the two actors kissing while enjoying a meal with members of Lopez’s family at Malibu’s posh Nobu sushi restaurant west of Los Angeles on Sunday.

Representatives for Lopez, 51, declined to comment on Monday, while Affleck’s publicists did not return a request for comment.

Lopez and “Argo” director Affleck, dubbed “Bennifer,” became the most talked about couple in the celebrity world in the early 2000s in a romance marked by his-and-her luxury cars and a large 6.1-carat pink diamond engagement ring. They abruptly called off their wedding in 2003 and split up a few months later.

The pair have been pictured together several times in Los Angels and Miami in recent weeks, after Lopez and her former baseball player fiance Alex Rodriguez called off their engagement in mid-April after four years together. Monday’s photos were the first in which Lopez and Affleck were seen kissing this time around.

Celebrity outlet E! News quoted an unidentified source last week as saying Lopez was planning to move from Miami to Los Angeles to spend more time with Affleck, 48, and was looking for schools for her 13-year-old twins Max and Emme.

Max and Emme, along with the singer’s sister Lydia, were also photographed walking into the restaurant in Malibu on Sunday.

Lopez married Latin singer Marc Anthony, her third husband, just five months after her 2004 split with Affleck. Affleck went on to marry, and later was divorced from, actress Jennifer Garner.

 

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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TikTok debuts new voice after Canadian actor sues

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TikTok

After noticing a new female voice narrating the videos on the popular video-sharing social networking service, users of TikTok were baffled as to why. It actually turns out that the Canadian actress behind the old voice filed a lawsuit against the platform for copyright violation as her voice was apparently being used without her permission.

Bev Standing, a voice actor based in Ontario, is taking China-based ByteDance to court. TikTok’s parent company has since replaced her voice with a new one, with Standing reportedly finding out over email after a tip-off from a journalist. On the matter, Standing said: “They replaced me with another voice. I am so overwhelmed by this whole thing. I’m stumbling for words because I just don’t know what to say.”

TikTok is said to be considering a settlement for Standing outside of the courts, but nobody knows whether or not this is true. According to legal experts, the fact TikTok now has a new voice on the popular social media app suggests they acknowledge Standing’s case and potentially understand that she may have suffered as a result of the company’s actions.

Thanks to the emergence of the powerful smartphone devices of today, alongside taking high-quality images for Instagram, getting lost down YouTube wormholes, and accessing popular slots like Purple Hot, people are turning to relatively new platforms like TikTok. The service has 689 million monthly active users worldwide and is one of the most downloaded apps in Apple’s iOS App Store. This latest news could harm the platforms future, although many of its younger users potentially aren’t aware that this type of scenario is unfolding.

For Bev Standing, the ordeal is a testing one. She wasn’t informed of the voice change, there is no mention of it in TikTok’s newsroom online, and the development is news to her lawyer also.

 

This all comes after her case was filed in a New York State court in early May after the voice actor noticed a computer-generated version of her voice had been seen and listened to around the world since 2020. Speculation is rife as to how TikTok managed to obtain the recordings but Standing believes the company acquired them from a project she took part in for the Chinese government in 2018.

(Image via https://twitter.com/VoiceOverXtra)

The Institute of Acoustics in China reportedly promised her that all of the material she would be recording would be used solely for translation, but they eventually fell into the hands of TikTok and have since been altered and then exposed to a global audience.

According to Pina D’Agostino, an associate professor with Osgoode Hall Law School at York University and an expert in copyright law, the fact that the hugely popular social media platform has now changed Standing’s voice could result in a positive outcome for the distraught voice actor. She said: “It’s a positive step in the way that they are mitigating their damages. And when you’re mitigating, you’re acknowledging that we did something wrong, and you’re trying to make things better.”

When assessing social media etiquette and how both companies and users should act, this type of news can only do more harm than good. Not only does it make the company look bad, but it could have an effect on revenues and, ultimately, TikTok’s reputation.

With a clear desire to move on and put this whole process behind her, Bev Standing is eager for the case to be resolved and get back to the daily work she loves and has been doing for a large part of her life. TikTok has until July 7 to respond to her claim.

 

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Nigeria orders broadcasters not to use Twitter to gather information

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Nigerian television and radio stations should not use Twitter to gather information and have to de-activate their accounts, the broadcast authority said following the move to suspend the U.S. social media giant in Africa’s most populous country.

Nigeria’s government on Friday said it had suspended Twitter’s activities, two days after the platform removed a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari that threatened to punish secessionists. Nigerian telecoms firms have since blocked access to Twitter.

International diplomats responded with a joint statement in support of “free expression and access to information as a pillar of democracy in Nigeria”.

Buhari, who was Nigeria’s military ruler in the 1980s, has previously been accused of cracking down on freedom of expression, though his government has denied such accusations.

Twitter has called its suspension “deeply concerning” and said it would work to restore access for all those in Nigeria who rely on the platform to communicate and connect with the world.

The National Broadcasting Commission, in a statement dated June 6, told broadcasters to “suspend the patronage of Twitter immediately”.

“Broadcasting stations are hereby advised to de-install Twitter handles and desist from using Twitter as a source of information gathering,” it said in the statement, adding that “strict compliance is enjoined”.

The statement comes two days after the attorney general ordered the prosecution of those who break the rules on the ban.

The foreign minister on Monday held a closed door meeting in the capital, Abuja, with diplomats from the United States, Britain, Canada, the European Union and Ireland to discuss the ban.

It followed the statement by their diplomatic missions on Saturday in which they criticised the move.

“These measures inhibit access to information and commerce at precisely the moment when Nigeria needs to foster inclusive dialogue…. as well as share vital information in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic,” they said in their statement.

Nigeria’s information minister on Friday said the ban would be “indefinite” but, in a statement late on Sunday, referred to it as a “temporary suspension”.

The minister did not immediately respond to phone calls and text messages on Monday seeking comment on the altered language.

 

(Reporting by Camillus Eboh and Abraham Achirga in Abuja; Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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