Social Issues

Japan introduces prison sentence, toughens fines for online insults

Tokyo, Jul 7 (EFE).- An amendment of Japan’s Penal Code that carries prison terms of up to a year and tough penalties for online insults came into force Thursday in an attempt to curb cyberbullying.

The amendment raises the maximum fine from less than JPY 10,000 ($ 74) to JPY 300,000 and introduces a jail term of up to one year for the crime, which, until now, was punishable with less than 30 days of detention, according to the Kyodo news agency.

The statute of limitations for insults has also been revised from one year to three years.

Efforts to amend this law gained momentum in the country after 22-year-old popular Japanese professional wrestler Hana Kimura allegedly committed suicide in May 2020 after facing relentless criticism on social media during her stint in the reality show “Terrace House.”

Two men were fined JPY 9,000 yen each for online insults against Kimura before her death but some considered the sentence too light and called for it to be toughened.

The amendment was tabled in this year’s parliamentary session and sparked much debate, with critics, including the main opposition party, arguing that the law could be used to stifle legitimate criticism of politicians and officials.

The bill was approved on Jun. 13 after political parties reached an agreement to add a complementary provision that stipulates that a review of the law will be carried out within three years of its enactment to determine if it restricts freedom of expression.

At a press conference this week ahead of the amendment’s entry into force, Japanese Justice Minister Yoshihisa Furukawa spoke about the importance of eradicating acts such as insults that could lead to someone’s death.

Furukawa said the amendment was not aimed at restricting freedom of expression, adding that the legal assessment shows cyberbullying “is a crime that should be severely dealt with.” He said the law would act “as a deterrent” to hate campaigns, Kyodo reported. EFE


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