Online insults will be punished with one year in prison in Japan, the criminal code being amended accordingly. The change comes amid growing public concern about cyberbullying after Hana Kimura’s death. The 22-year-old sportswoman and star of the reality show “Terrace House” committed suicide two years ago after being harassed on social media.
The criminal amendment in Japan was adopted on Monday and will take effect in the summer.
Those convicted of online insults and harassment will be sentenced to up to one year in prison or fined 300,000 yen (about $ 2,200), writes CNN. It is a significant tightening of the law, which so far has provided for less than 30 days in prison and a fine of up to 10,000 yen ($ 75).
The bill has been disputed and controversial in the country, with critics arguing that it restricts freedom of expression and blocks criticism of politicians. On the other hand, proponents of the project say tougher legislation is needed to combat cyberbullying and online harassment.
The amendment was only adopted after an amendment was added which provides for the law to be reviewed three years after its entry into force in order to assess the impact on freedom of expression.
According to Japan’s penal code, insults are defined as publicly degrading one’s social status, without referring to specific facts about it or a specific action, according to a Justice Ministry spokesman. The act is different from defamation, which is defined as the public humiliation of someone with the indication of specific facts. Both are punishable by law.
Lawyer Seiho Cho argued that “there must be a guide that makes a distinction as to what qualifies as insulting. For example, at this point, even if someone calls the leader of Japan an idiot, then maybe under the revised law, he could be categorized as an insult. “
Hana Kimura’s death
The issue of online harassment has gained ground in the public domain in recent years after the death of Hana Kimura.
Hana Kimura was 22 years old and was a wrestling fighter, with a great audience. Due to her popularity, Kimura was part of the distribution of the reality show “Terrace House” broadcast by Netflix. She committed suicide in 2020, and the news shocked the Japanese, who claimed that her death came after online harassment.
Shortly after her death, Japanese officials raised the issue of the danger of cyberbullying and vowed to speed up government talks on criminal law.
Hana Kimura’s mother has campaigned against tougher laws against online harassment and set up a non-profit organization called “Remember Hana” to raise awareness of the issue. “I want people to know that cyberbullying is a crime,” she said after the new law was passed.
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