On the question of Nikon Corp.’s decision to cancel a photo exhibition featuring “comfort women” who were forced to provide sex to Japanese soldiers before and during World War II, the Tokyo District Court issued an injunction requiring the company to provide the venue in line with the contract with a photographer. Although Nikon filed an appeal, the photo exhibition opened on June 26 as scheduled.
We find Nikon’s actions all the more regrettable because the company has a strong social impact. Could it be that Nikon lost its cool in the face of loud protests against the event and missed something important?
During court proceedings, Nikon argued that it could not provide the venue, whose purpose is to advance photographic culture, for an event that has political implications. In response, the court stated that depending on themes, photographic culture may not be completely free from politics. The court concluded that the exhibition in question does not run counter to the “purpose” advocated by Nikon.
The ruling showed the court’s clear-cut stance to protect freedom of expression.
Comments blasting the comfort women exhibition as “treason” swirled around the Internet after the announcement of the planned event. Nikon has received complaints, as well. The development apparently led to its decision to call off the show despite its earlier approval.
It is understandable that a business wants to avert trouble. But abruptly depriving a photographer of a venue to exhibit his works is too rash.
Nikon lenses have captured various controversies around the world, including war and pollution, and recorded many images of joy and grief. The company has also been highly commended for making social contributions, including its program to support photographers. It is a pity that its reputation has been damaged by an issue concerning none other than freedom of expression.
If threats are expected, the company should seek police cooperation to ensure safety. Still, in light of objective facts, if a serious situation is likely, only then should the company consider cancelling the show. Nikon should have taken appropriate measures based on past court rulings over similar cases.
Thanks to the security of freedom of expression and speech, including the exhibition of photos, people can freely exchange ideas, gain support and have an opportunity to realize their own mistakes. It is upon such ground that democracy is built.
However, attacks against people with different ideas have become increasingly common, including those on the Internet.
We also recognize the emerging trend among people to think it is safer not to put up resistance but to swim with the tide. Which way is such an oppressive society headed? We need to remember the lessons of history.
An intolerant society is fragile and weak. What should each of us do to prevent Japan from becoming such a country? We must always think and use our wisdom.
--The Asahi Shimbun, June 29
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