Japan To Introduce Jail Terms And Tougher Penalties For Online Insults

The introduction of a prison term of up to a year and other tougher penalties for online insults will go into effect on Thursday as part of Japan’s efforts to crack down on cyberbullying.

The revised Penal Code will also increase the fine for insults to 300,000 yen ($2,200), raising the bar for the current sentence of detention of less than 30 days or a fine of less than 10,000 yen. The limitation period for insults will also be extended from one year to three years.

Hana Kimura. (Getty/Kyodo)

Moves to change the law gained traction after Hana Kimura, a 22-year-old professional wrestler and cast member of popular Netflix reality show ‘Terrace House’, allegedly took her own life in May 2020 after receiving a downpour hate messages on social media.

Two men from Osaka and Fukui prefectures were fined 9,000 yen each for insults published about TV personality Kimura before his death, but some expressed concern that the sentences were too light, which led to the push for legal changes.

The Justice Department’s Legislative Council recommended to Justice Minister Yoshihisa Furukawa last October that the sentences be harsher.

The proposed amendment was submitted during this year’s regular Diet session, but the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and others had opposed the revision, arguing that it could stifle legitimate criticism from politicians and officials.

The bill was passed in a plenum session of the upper house on June 13 after the ruling Liberal Democratic Party reached an agreement with the CDPJ and others that an additional provision, stipulating that a review will be carried out within three years of its enactment to determine whether it is unfairly restricting freedom of expression, would be added.

Kyoko Kimura, mother of Hana Kimura, holds a news conference on June 13, 2022 in Tokyo after Japan’s parliament passed a bill to toughen penalties for online insults. To his right is Takuya Matsunaga who also suffered from negative social media posts after losing his wife and daughter in a high-profile 2019 car crash in Tokyo. (Kyodo)

Furukawa told a press conference on Tuesday that implementing tougher penalties was important because “it demonstrates the legal assessment that (cyberbullying) is a crime that should be dealt with harshly and has a deterrent effect.” .

He also stressed that this decision would not act as “an unjustified restriction on freedom of expression”.

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