The hate speech dilemma

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The hate speech dilemma

In August, I was on a debate show to discuss the tensions between Korea and Japan. After the talk, I returned to my waiting room. Another panelist on the show, Minoru Kiuchi, the foreign affairs vice chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party at the time and now Japan’s vice foreign minister, was there. He told me he had received a direct order from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to start a task force to handle hate speech.

“I will make sure it ends,” he said.

This was targeted at Zaitokukai, the Association of Citizens against the Special Privileges of Ethnic Koreans in Japan. Zaitokukai is a far-right group that organizes anti-Korean rallies in Koreatown in Tokyo. The Japanese government has been practically condoning their hate rallies since they began in 2012. Tokyo did not take action even when the United Nations urged it to do so. So I thought the Japanese government was about to make a belated attempt to tackle the issue.

Five months had passed and I saw an article on the Sankei Shimbun titled “No Tolerance for Hate Speech.” It was about hate speech measures by the Justice Ministry, which it gave high marks. The government was distributing a poster with the slogan “No tolerance for hate speech” and had also launched online advertisements.

Of course, this is better than nothing. But it is simply absurd if the discussion of hate speech regulations have concluded with some posters and advertisements. According to the Japanese Justice Ministry’s website, “The Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice mentioned appropriate application of existing laws at the Diet.”

In essence, Japan has no intentions to legislate new laws to regulate hate speech.

In November, a group of bipartisan opposition lawmakers proposed a bill to define hate speech as an unlawful act, but it was blocked by the gigantic ruling party led by Prime Minister Abe.

When I recently met a ruling party official, I inquired about the issue.

“We all know hate speech is not a good thing, but freedom of speech should not be violated,” he responded. Some even compared the Charlie Hebdo cartoon to “freedom of hate speech.” They are simply senseless and undiscerning. (France, the country of Charlie Hebdo, strictly regulates hate speech by law.)

We don’t even need to refer to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’s definition of hate speech as a “violent threat.” Hopefully, I am right to believe Japan is not a country to cover up the crime as “freedom of speech” with a few posters.

*The author is Tokyo bureau chief of the JoongAng Ilbo.JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 15, Page 29


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