A bill to introduce prison sentences as part of tougher penalties for online insults was recently passed in a plenary session of Japan’s Supreme House Parliament, marking an important step in tackling cyberbullying in the country.
The initiative to amend the country’s Corbine Code emerged after Hana Kimura, A 22 – year – old professional wrestler and cast member of the popular reality show Netflix “Terrace House“, committed suicide in May 2020 after receiving a barrage of hate messages on social media.
The parliamentary debate focused on how to strike a delicate balance between stricter regulations and the freedom of speech guaranteed by the Constitution. The main opposition party, Japan’s Constitutional Democratic Party, and others opposed the review, arguing that it could legitimately criticize politicians and public officials.
The bill was passed following an agreement with the leading Liberal Democrat Party to add a supplementary provision, which requires a review within three years of its enactment. determine whether it unduly restricts freedom of expression.
In Japan, insults and slander are distinguished in that they insult a person in public without reference to a particular act, but both are punishable by law. Currently, the penalty for insults is a detention of less than 30 days or a fine of less than 10,000 yen (approximately US $ 74). The proposed amendments will introduce a prison sentence of up to one year and increase the fine to 300,000 yen (over $ 2,200).
The statute of limitations on insults will also be extended from one to three years. The changes will take effect twenty days after their announcement. It is not yet clear to what extent insult will be considered punishable under the legislation.
Two men from Osaka and Fukui prefectures were fined 9,000 yen each for Kimura’s abusive TV personality before his death, but some raised concerns that the penalties were too light, prompting legal changes. In the plenary session of the Association of Councilors, a proposal to unify two types of prison sentences – with forced labor and without forced labor – was approved in its recommendation.
Prison labor will no longer be compulsory for prisoners, making it possible to spend more time on rehabilitation counseling and education in an effort to reduce recidivism. The establishment of the unified prison law will come into force three years after its enactment. This is the first time that changes to this type of penalty have been introduced since the Penal Code was enacted in 1907.
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