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Editorial: 5 years on from anti-hate speech law, Japan must do more to end discrimination

It has been five years since Japan's anti-hate speech law was enacted. In it, national and municipal governments are called on to take steps to end discriminatory deeds and utterances based on people's country of origin, their race or their ethnicity.

    But hate speech has not disappeared. Deeds that infringe on specific people's dignity by focusing on issues like their origins of birth, which they can do nothing about, are unacceptable. To root out this behavior, further efforts must be made.

    Since the enaction of the anti-hate speech law, roadside demonstrations and protests have fallen. More courts are ruling on what constitutes forbidden behavior, and damages payments to victims have also grown larger.

    Enactments of ordinances by local governments have also made strides. In the east Japan city of Kawasaki, where fierce protests and gatherings have been held repeatedly, these activities have been forbidden and punishments applied.

    But responses to the issue online have not made progress. Municipal authorities and the Legal Affairs Bureau, among other organizations, have lobbied tech companies to delete discriminatory posts, but initiatives haven't caught up.

    While the law was successfully enacted, the national government's uptake of it has been insufficient.

    First, surveys of the present situation must be taken. No such action was taken after the law was put into force, despite an understanding of the current circumstances being essential. A plan to eliminate discrimination should be formulated after that has been done.

    Regulations to ban discriminatory acts and statements are also necessary. We have a situation where internet posts are being left up because they are not indicated as illegal acts.

    Some are also calling for punishments against hate speech, as well as the establishment of a human rights relief agency. At present, the burden on victims is heavy when it comes to trying to make perpetrators accountable for their actions. There should be investigations into this while considerations are also made for how to balance it with freedom of expression.

    A resolute response from those around discrimination cases is also important.

    On the official website of cosmetics firm DHC Corp., posts in the company president's name that discriminate against Zainichi Koreans were published again and again. Multiple municipal authorities ended their association with the company, and trading partners also expressed concerns over the remarks, leading them to being deleted.

    Within an environment that gives rise to hate speech is the strongly held prejudice that foreign nationals cannot be recognized as members of society.

    Threats have been made against facilities aiming to promote co-existence and understanding with foreign communities. Some candidates in elections have campaigned on a platform rejecting foreign nationals.

    We must develop greater appreciation for the history of foreign people living in Japan, and of their culture, and create a society that does not tolerate hate speech.

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