The upper house of Japan’s national legislature passed a bill Monday that would punish people convicted of making online insults with up to one year in prison and fines of up to $2,231, Kyodo News reported.
The legislation would amend Japan’s penal code to increase established punishments for people found guilty of insulting others over the internet.
“At present, the penalty for insults is detention for less than 30 days or a fine of less than 10,000 yen [$74.39 USD]. The proposed amendments will introduce a prison term of up to one year and raise the fine to up to 300,000 yen [$2231.73 USD],”Kyodo News observed June 13.
“In Japan, insults are distinguished from defamation in that the former publicly demeans someone without referring to a specific action but both are punishable under the law,”According to the news agency.
Further, the bill will increase from one year to three years the period of limitation for online insults. Precisely how authorities would determine the degree to which an online insult might be considered punishable by law remains unclear.
The online insult bill passed on June 13 during a plenary session of Japan’s upper house, or House of Councillors, which is similar to a senate. Japan’s government previously approved the legislation in March, meaning it will likely pass through to promulgation in the coming days before becoming law.
Japan’s left-wing opposition party, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP), and other political parties in the country have opposed the cyber insult bill, “arguing that it could stifle legitimate criticism of politicians and public officials,”Kyodo News reported Monday.
“The bill was passed after reaching an agreement with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party that a supplementary provision, stipulating that a review will be conducted within three years of its enactment to determine if it unfairly restricts free speech, would be added,”According to the news agency.
An advisory panel of Japan’s Justice Ministry approved a plan to introduce tougher penalties for online insults in October 2021, “amid a growing need to tackle cyberbullying,”At the time, the ministry spoke out.
Japan’s Ministry of Justice cited the example of Japanese professional wrestler Hana Kimura, whom authorities believe committed suicide in May 2020 after allegedly being inundated with disparaging messages via social media. Kimura (22 years old) was a member of the cast on Netflix’s reality series. Terrace House immediately prior to her death in Tokyo.
“Two men in Osaka and Fukui prefectures were fined 9,000 yen ($80) each for making insults against Kimura, but there were voices of concern that the penalties were too light,”In October 2021, Kyodo News was retracted.
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