TOKYO -- Major broadcaster Fuji Television Network Inc. failed to give sufficient consideration to the mental wellbeing of Hana Kimura, a participant on its reality show "Terrace House" who died following cyberbullying from viewers, but her treatment did not infringe on her human rights, according to the human rights committee of Japan's broadcasting ethics organization on March 30.
Pro-wrestler Kimura, 22, died in May 2020 after being subjected to slander over an episode of the popular reality TV show. The Broadcast and Human Rights/Other Related Rights Committee, headed by Takenori Oku -- professor emeritus at Hosei University in Tokyo -- at Japan's Broadcasting Ethics & Program Improvement Organization (BPO) investigated the incident. While it found issues with Fuji TV's actions from a broadcast ethics point of view, the committee said it did not see evidence of human rights infringements.
The reality show Terrace House follows the romantic developments and everyday lives of six men and women residing in the same home. The episode which aired on May 19, 2020 was subject to the committee's deliberations. It includes a scene in which she strongly criticizes a male housemate who mistakenly put her pro-wrestling costume in the washing machine, among other behavior.
The same episode was released ahead of broadcasts on the popular streaming service Netflix at the end of March, and after slander against her on social media increased, Kimura started to self-harm. She died on May 23, after the episode's terrestrial broadcast.
The BPO's human rights committee said regarding the response following Kimura's self-harm, "Fuji TV gave a certain level of care, and it cannot be said that the decision to broadcast was done unthinkingly. Therefore, we cannot go as far as to rule that there were human rights violations."
Additionally, the committee explained, "The broadcaster is not the one to take responsibility (over human rights violations) but the people who did the slander (on social media) should be." But it did assert there were broadcasting ethics issues, saying, "Fuji TV lacked consideration for (Kimura's) mental health during the process of deciding to broadcast (an episode) that clearly placed a mental burden on Ms. Kimura."
In July 2020, Kimura's mother Kyoko Kimura lodged requests for the committee to investigate the case. She argued that Fuji TV's "excessive staging" portrayed her daughter as a violent woman, which caused her mental pain and infringed on her human rights, among other assertions. But the broadcaster denied the claims of "excessive staging" or human rights violations. The human rights committee said regarding the program-makers editing and directing, "We cannot say there are broadcasting ethics issues."
The committee's written views included mentioning that a minority of its members had maintained human rights abuses took place.
Fuji TV issued an official statement, saying, "We will seriously reflect on this decision from the committee, and apply it to our broadcasts and production going forward."
(Japanese original by Tomonori Matsuo, Cultural News Department)