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Editorial: Japanese broadcasters need to ensure 'Terrace House' tragedy is never repeated

Following the death of professional wrestler Hana Kimura, a participant on Fuji Television Network Inc.'s reality show "Terrace House," the human rights committee of Japan's Broadcasting Ethics & Program Improvement Organization (BPO) pointed out problems with the show in terms of broadcasting ethics. Such a painful incident must never be repeated.

    After one episode was distributed online prior to its airing, slanderous abuse directed at Kimura over her actions in the show surfaced one after another on social media. Following her death, a farewell note hinting at her suicide was found.

    The BPO's Human Rights/Other Related Rights Committee took issue with the process whereby Fuji TV decided to broadcast the episode on terrestrial television despite Kimura having resorted to self-harm.

    Touching on the nature of reality TV shows, whose participants are susceptible to attacks on their personalities, the committee stated that Fuji TV "lacked consideration for (Kimura's) mental health."

    The committee did not recognize that there had been "human rights violations," the most serious type of problem, taking into consideration the fact that Fuji TV had taken measures such as engaging with Kimura via the free messaging app Line and visiting her home after she harmed herself.

    Ahead of the probe by the human rights committee, Fuji TV conducted an internal investigation and released a report stating that there was no coercion over how she presents herself in the program and that there was no intention of causing a storm on social media.

    The broadcaster once again needs to face up to the fact that a young life was lost. It should take the committee's decision seriously, including that there were a few harsh opinions. It is only natural for the broadcaster to enhance measures to prevent a recurrence.

    The exchanging of opinions between viewers while watching broadcasts -- not just reality TV shows -- is surely something people can enjoy in the internet age. But at the same time, we must not forget that anonymity of the internet easily invites personal attacks on people.

    Those who made slanderous posts against Kimura bear a heavy responsibility. People need to stop and think whether their posts could be hurting others.

    Decisions from the committee are usually accompanied by requests to the broadcaster involved, but this time, a request was sent out to the broadcasting community at large, saying, "We hope that voluntary efforts will be taken so that a tragedy like this never occurs again."

    The producers of programs must not forget that the safety and security of those who appear in them is the top priority.

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