1-Year Prison For Online Insults In This Country: Never Do This Online

1-Year Prison For Online Insults In This Country: Never Do This Online
1-Year Prison For Online Insults In This Country: Never Do This Online

Japan has introduced tough penalties for those who cyberbully someone. 

Cyberbullying consists of sending messages to someone with insults or threats. 

New and tougher rules

The crime will now be punishable by a prison term of up to one year or a monetary penalty of up to $2,200 (¥300,000).

The time under the statute of limitations on online bullying has also been extended from one year to three years.

This means that while earlier a victim could not report the crime if a year since had passed, now this period is extended to three years.

The penalties are a part of legislation on defamation, which defines the crime as “a display of contempt towards someone without demonstrating facts in a recognisable manner”.

Background

This comes in the wake of the death of professional wrestler and reality TV star Hana Kimura in 2020 who succumbed to online harassment and bullying. 

Before her death, Kimura tweeted that she received about a hundred hateful messages every day and she was hurt by them.

She died of suicide in May 2020 

After this, her mother launched a fervent campaign which resulted in an amendment to pre existing laws which raised the penalties from the earlier 10,000 yen in fines or 30 days in jail.

The effect of reality tv

Hana gained exposure through her appearance on Netflix hit “Terrace House”, in which six young people share a home while looking for love.

Kimura had faced a barrage of online abuse, with statements like “everyone will be happy if you’re gone”.

Although “Terrace House” was cancelled after Kimura’s death, her mother has said those behind the programme “bear the heaviest responsibility”.

Producers created conflict

She is planning legal action against them.

Reports at the time of Kimura’s death suggested producers had stoked conflict among members of the reality show that painted the wrestler in a negative light.

As a result of what happened to Kimura, at least two men who sent her hateful messages have been fined, including one ordered to pay 1.29 million yen in May 2021 ($9,500 at today’s rates).

Fears over silencing political criticism

The laws were met with opposition by advocates for free speech and legal experts who have urged the government to keep political criticism out of the ambit.

The Japan Federation of Bar Associations said that the prison sentence is inappropriate since it will stifle legitimate criticism of politicians and public officials.

Kimura’s mother Kyoko agreed with his sentiment, saying that she is strongly against misuse of the strengthened punishment in this sense.

The bill was passed on June 13 after agreeing that a provision would be added in which a review will be conducted within three years of its enactment to determine if it unfairly restricts free speech.

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