MARI YAMAGUCHI, Associated Press
TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s parliament on Monday approved tougher criminal defamation penalties following the suicide of a bullied wrestler, raising free speech concerns.
Parliamentary discussions on tightening the defamation law began in January after Hana Kimura committed suicide at 22.
Kimura faced bullying and abuse on social media in 2020 after appearing on the Netflix show Terrace House, about three men and three women temporarily living together in a shared house in Tokyo.
Her death sparked a wave of discussion about anonymous bullying and hate messages.
Kimura’s mother Kyoko, also a famous professional wrestler, was the driving force behind legal change. In April, she was tested in parliament and said she constantly faced insults and accusations of using her daughter’s name to make money.
The amended law will officially come into effect later this year. It will add a one-year prison term with the possibility of forced labor and fines of up to 300,000 yen ($2,220) for convicted offenders — instead of only short-term detention and fines of less than 10,000 yen ($74) to the current law.
The law was approved by the upper house on Monday after having previously been passed by the lower house, the most powerful of Japan’s bicameral parliaments. Due to problems with freedom of speech, the law is scheduled to be reviewed by external experts in three years.
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