My Japan Times JBC 95, “Osaka’s move on hate speech should be just the first step” Feb. 1, 2016


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Hi Blog. Here is my Japan Times Just Be Cause column 95 on hate speech legislation in Japan. Thanks once again for sending it to #1 again on the Japan Times Online! Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


“Osaka’s move on hate speech should be just the first step”
By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito, Just Be Cause column 95 for the Japan Times Community Page
The Japan Times, Monday, Feb. 1, 2016

On Jan. 15, the Osaka Prefectural Assembly passed the first local ordinance against hate speech in Japan. JBC sees this as a step in the right direction.

Until now, there was no way to define what “hate speech” was, let alone take any measures against it. Defining a problem is fundamental to finding a solution.

Moreover, passing an ordinance makes a general statement to society that the existence of hate speech is not only undeniable but also impermissible. This matters, given Japan’s high tolerance for racist outbursts from public officials, and clear cases of bullying and intimidation that have otherwise been protected under “freedom of speech” (genron no jiyuu). Osaka has made it clearer that there is a limit to what you can say about groups of people in public.

However, this still isn’t quite at the stage where Osaka can kvell. There are no criminal or financial penalties for haters. An earlier version of the ordinance offered victims financial assistance to take their case to court, but that was cut to get it passed. Also, an adjudicating committee (shinsa-kai) can basically only “name and shame” haters by warning and publicizing them on a government website — in other words, it can officially frown upon them.

Even the act of creating a law against hate speech has invited criticism for opening up potential avenues to policymaker abuse. They have a point: tampering with freedom of speech invites fears, quite reasonably, about slippery slopes to censorship. So let’s address the niggling question right now: Should there ever be limits put on what you can say?

JBC argues yes…

Read the rest in the Japan Times at

1 comment on “My Japan Times JBC 95, “Osaka’s move on hate speech should be just the first step” Feb. 1, 2016

  • “Incitement to DISCRIMINATION, HOSTILITY or VIOLENCE shall be prohibited by law.” ~ The United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (U.N. ICCPR) which the government of Japan signed in 1979.

    That point, together with the other good points raised in your article Debito, has strongly convinced me that verbal or written incitement of discrimination/hostility/violence ALREADY has been outlawed by the legally supreme law of the United Nations ever since the legislators of Japan signed the ICCPR in 1979.

    Previously, I learned from you Debito that: Japan entered into a binding contract by signing the U.N. CERD Treaty in 1995, which outlawed all physical discrimination such as entry-denial. A treaty contract which Japan must obey.

    Today, I learned from you Debito that: Japan ALSO entered into a binding contract by signing the U.N. ICCPR Treaty in 1979, which outlawed even verbal or written incitement/advocacy/encouragement of discrimination/hostility/violence.

    The incitement of discrimination.
    The incitement of hostility.
    The incitement of violence.

    Well, since all 3 of those actions (discrimination, hostility, and violence) cause damage, and damage creates both a victim and a perpetrator, the verbal and written incitement of causing such damage SHOULD be (and thanks to the ICCPR Treaty which Japan signed in 1979, already is LEGALLY REQUIRED to be) outlawed in Japan.

    I love the freedom factor, I love to say “No victim, no crime”, but as soon as there is DAMAGE (or even the INCITEMENT of DAMAGE) my desire to reduce damage takes a higher priority than my desire to maintain freedom.

    Below, I quote some sentences from your most recent JapanTimes JBC article, in which I add emphasis on the DAMAGE factor, the factor which convinced me you are right, we do need Japan to finally begin obeying the Japan-signed ICCPR-Treaty:

    “Freedom of speech is not an absolute. You cannot just say anything, anywhere, anytime. We already have the prototypical argument against shouting ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater, and obviously freedom of speech does not allow people to perjure or defraud. The general consensus in legal circles is that people should in principle NOT be allowed to ADVOCATE HARM against other people.”

    “Laws against defamation, libel and slander … generating HARMFUL rumors about people — are quite normal and uncontroversial in any developed judiciary. Japan already has measures against meiyo kison (DAMAGE to HONOR), albeit not in its Criminal Code. This means you have to take whatever bothers you to civil court and convince a judge that a) your REPUTATION has been provably DAMAGED by the speech (just claiming emotional distress, or seishin kutsū, is insufficient) and b) this has AFFECTED you FINANCIALLY, so you can quantify the DAMAGES you should be awarded.”

    “Thus hate speech is an offshoot of libel and slander, in that the DAMAGE extends beyond the individual into the group. Are people allowed to publicly denigrate or advocate VIOLENCE or DISCRIMINATION towards entire segments of a society? In Japan until now, yes, they could. Japan essentially restricted defamatory tort claims to the individual.”

    “However, after a number of embarrassing events that attracted international attention, including a famous anti-Korean demo in Osaka in 2013 where a schoolgirl ADVOCATED that Koreans BE KILLED a la the Nanking Massacre, people began to see that a line had been crossed. Further, placards in Tokyo that same year advocating the KILLING of “all Koreans, good or bad” raised awareness that this public hatred was not an isolated incident.”

    “And there is an international consensus backing them up: the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states, ‘Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes INCITEMENT to DISCRIMINATION, HOSTILITY or VIOLENCE shall be PROHIBITED BY LAW.’ Japan acceded to the ICCPR way back in 1979, so Osaka’s ordinance is in fact 37 years overdue.”

    “But for now, let us celebrate this step in the right direction, and let cases and precedents sharpen future legislation accordingly, as they have in civilized countries worldwide. Thank you, Osaka. Who’s next?”

    So, if one has evidence of an individual in Japan encouraging discrimination against Burakumin/Foreigners/Anyone, one should show the evidence in court and argue that if the court judges refuse to penalize this action which is already-outlawed-by-treaty, refusal to penalize this action proves the government of Japan itself is in clear violation of the 1995 CERD Treaty AND the 1979 ICCPR Treaty.

    The United Nations IS the outside-pressure group we need, and the United Nations HAS already successfully motivated Japan to enter into binding contract treaties which ARE supreme laws, and these supreme laws DO already outlaw both Racial Discrimination AND the verbal/written Incitement of Racial Discrimination. So really, we need to motivate the United Nations now to initiate the process of forcing Japan to STOP violating the 1995 CERD Treaty and the 1979 ICCPR Treaty.

    Thanks again Debito, for helping me realize that even though I love freedom, there is something I love even more: justice. Justice in this case being the reduction of damage dealt to victims. Justice in this case being the increase of penalties to perpetrators.

    Our intent is: lawfully protecting against the damaging act of discrimination, and even lawfully protecting against the damaging act of verbal/written INCITEMENT of discrimination. Hopefully the intent of these laws will not be twisted by the judges.

    So yeah, a perpetrator who physically does the act of racial discrimination, should be properly penalized by the laws which the signed CERD Treaty requires.

    And yeah, a perpetrator who verbally/written INCITES the act of racial discrimination, “Non-Japanese races should not be allowed in stores” should also be properly penalized by the laws which the signed ICCPR Treaty requires.

    “Incitement to DISCRIMINATION, hostility or violence shall be PROHIBITED BY LAW.” ~ The United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (U.N. ICCPR) which the government of Japan signed in 1979.


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