Tokyo: Japan’s parliament authorised stronger criminal defamation penalties in response to a bullied wrestler’s suicide, which has raised concerns about free expression.
Deliberations in Parliament on toughening the defamation legislation began in January, following the suicide of Hana Kimura, who was 22 at the time.
After appearing on the Netflix show Terrace Residence, about three men and three women temporarily living together in a shared house in Tokyo, Kimura endured bullying and comments on social media in 2020.
Her death sparked a national conversation about online bullying and abusive words.
Kyoko Kimura, a well-known professional wrestler, was a major force behind the legal change. She testified in parliament in April, saying she had been repeatedly insulted and accused of profiting on her daughter’s name.
Later this year, the amended law will be fully enacted. It will add a one-year prison term with the option of forced labour, as well as fines of up to 300,000 yen ($3170) to convicted violators, up from the current law’s only short-term incarceration and fines of less than 10,000 yen ($106).
The measure was adopted by the upper house on Monday after passing through the lower house, Japan’s more powerful of the two chambers of parliament. Due to concerns about free expression, the bill will be reviewed by outside experts in three years.