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Japan: Online Insults Punishable by One Year in Prison

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Professional wrestler and reality show star Hana Kimura | Image by Fight Game Media

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The Japanese government came closer to enhancing the country’s existing criminal penalty for online and in-person insults last Monday, with a proposed amendment to Japan’s penal code passing an upper house plenary session, per Kyodo News.

The current penalty for insulting someone in Japan is fewer than 30 days in jail and a fine of up to 10,000 yen, approximately $75.

The new law would raise the penalty to no more than one year in jail and a fine of up to 300,000 yen, approximately $2,200. It would also extend the statute of limitations from one year to three years.

Support for the enhancement began to build in Japan following the suicide of 22-year-old professional wrestler and reality show star Hana Kimura, who killed herself in May 2020 after getting bullied online.

She received hundreds of comments on social media, including some that explicitly encouraged her to commit suicide.

Authorities charged two men in Japan with insulting Kimura online. The two men each received fines of 9,000 yen, about $68, according to Kyodo News.

Supporters of Kimura and her family thought the men’s penalty was far too lenient. Japanese officials pledged to advance legislation tackling the issue not long after her death, per CNN.

The proposal to enhance the criminal penalty for insults prompted debate in government over the tension between free speech and abusive, insulting language.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan reached an accord during the plenary session on Monday, June 13.

The legislation passed the body once a supplementary provision was added that stated a review of the law’s constitutionality would be conducted within three years of its enactment, according to Kyodo News.

The law has already passed the lower house of Japan’s parliament, bringing it to the verge of enactment, per ABC News.

The prime minister will likely sign the measure into law, then all that will be left is for Emperor Naruhito to promulgate it.

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