It has been a year since Japan’s anti-hate speech law took effect. And over that year, the number of demonstrations targeting specific races or ethnicities has apparently declined.
Public institutions have been doing their part. Courts have issued provisional injunctions against holding hate speech demonstrations in certain places, while police forces have been boosting supervision and control of such demonstrations, and these measures seem to be having a real impact.
Nevertheless, we still see an endless stream of hateful language in Japan, starting, but by no means ending, with “go home!” and “kick them out!”
Hate speech is a social disease. It is extremely important for the idea that hate speech is unforgiveable to permeate society as a whole.
The hate speech law commits local administrations to work with the central government on eliminating discrimination. We call on these bodies to tackle the problem proactively.
According to a recent announcement, the municipal government of Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, will draw up guidelines as early as this autumn that would allow city officials to issue warnings or refuse applications to use public facilities if they suspect the applicant will engage in discriminatory speech or conduct. In other words, the guidelines set out measures to halt hate speech gatherings before they happen, and the city will call for the opinions of third-party observers to make sure the guidelines are applied fairly.
It is perfectly natural to make sure that countermeasures against hate speech demonstrations do not lead to curbs on freedom of expression, but hate speech clearly violates human rights. We would like to see local governments across the country consider hate speech regulations in line with local conditions.
While street demonstrations have declined over the past year, online hate speech appears to have been reinvigorated. Dealing with this is an urgent task.
The Osaka Municipal Government recently announced the online handles of three users confirmed to have posted hate speech videos on the internet, as well as the content of the images. The move was based on a municipal ordinance passed last July, the first of its kind in Japan.
Meanwhile, it should be remembered that even primary school children use computers and smartphones. Educating school children about online hate ought to be a national project.
There is some disturbing data on the prevalence of hate speech in Japan.
In March this year, the Justice Ministry released its first-ever survey of racial and ethnic discrimination in Japan. The survey, which was conducted late last year, covered about 4,200 medium- and long-term foreign residents of this country including Koreans. It found that some 30 percent of respondents had been the target of “discriminatory speech.” Forty percent said they had been refused a home rental contract.
Japanese people’s coexistence with foreigners and people from different cultural backgrounds is indispensable to Japan. It is a must for us to face up to the discriminatory thinking deeply rooted in our society in an effort to eradicate hate speech in Japan.