Editorial: 5 years after hate speech law, Japan must do more to end discrimination

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It has been five years since Japan’s hate speech law was enacted. In it, national and municipal governments are called upon to take action to put an end to discriminatory acts and words based on a person’s country of origin, race or ethnicity.

But hate speech has not gone away. Acts that undermine the dignity of some people by focusing on issues such as their birth origins, which they cannot do anything about, are unacceptable. To eradicate this behavior, additional efforts must be made.

Since the enactment of the Hate Speech Law, roadside demonstrations and protests have declined. More and more courts are ruling on what constitutes prohibited behavior, and damages paid to victims have also increased.

The promulgation of ordinances by local governments has also made progress. In the city of Kawasaki, in eastern Japan, where violent protests and rallies have taken place on several occasions, these activities have been banned and sanctions applied.

But responses to the online problem have not progressed. City officials and the Office of Legal Affairs, among other organizations, have pressured tech companies to remove discriminatory messages, but the initiatives have not caught up.

Although the law was successfully enacted, its adoption by the national government was insufficient.

First of all, it is necessary to make statements of the current situation. No such action was taken after the entry into force of the law, although an understanding of the current circumstances is essential. A plan to eliminate discrimination should be formulated once this has been done.

Regulations prohibiting discriminatory acts and statements are also needed. We have a situation where Internet publications are being left out because they are not flagged as illegal acts.

Some are also calling for sanctions against hate speech, as well as the creation of a human rights aid agency. Today, the burden on victims is heavy when it comes to trying to hold perpetrators accountable. There should be inquiries into this while considerations are also being made on how to balance it with freedom of expression.

A resolute response from those around cases of discrimination is also important.

On the official website of cosmetics company DHC Corp., articles on behalf of the president of the company that discriminate against Koreans in Zainichi have been posted repeatedly. Many city officials have ended their association with the company, and business partners have also expressed concerns about the remarks, which has led to their removal.

In an environment that gives rise to hate speech, there is a strong prejudice that foreign nationals cannot be recognized as members of society.

Threats have been made against facilities aimed at promoting coexistence and understanding with foreign communities. Some election candidates campaigned on a platform rejecting foreign nationals.

We need to develop a greater appreciation for the history of foreigners living in Japan and their culture, and create a society that does not tolerate hate speech.


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