Cyberbullying is punishable by a year in jail in Japan

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People found guilty of cyberbullying in Japan will now face up to a year in prison, after the new rules came into force on Thursday, strengthened after the suicide of a reality star who had been bullied online. .

Star professional wrestler Hana Kimura, who had participated in the show “Terrace House”, mostly broadcast on Netflix, committed suicide in 2020 at the age of 22 after receiving comments on social media such as “When are you going to die?”.

The Penal Code revision, which follows a campaign by Hana Kimura’s mother, now provides for fines of 300,000 yen (approximately $2,050) and sentences of up to one year in prison – against 10,000 yen (74 dollars) and 30 prison days until then.

Justice Minister Yoshihisa Furukawa said these enhanced sanctions aim to make it clear that cyberbullying is a crime.

“It is important that we strive to eradicate malicious insults” that can sometimes lead to the death of the people they are addressed to, he told a news conference this week.

Although cyberbullying issues were already part of the public debate in Japan before Hana Kimura’s death, the young woman’s suicide caused shock both in the Archipelago and abroad and increased pressure on elected representatives to toughen the legislation.

Kyoko Kimura, Hana’s mother, celebrated with reporters the passing of this review before Parliament last month.

But some free speech advocates and legal experts, who oppose these tougher penalties, called on the government to ensure they are not used to curtail free speech and political criticism.

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