After calls for harsher punishments following the suicide of a cyberbullied Indonesian Japanese female wrestler, Japan’s parliament passed a bill on Wednesday making online insults punishable by imprisonment.
Kimura Hana was a 22-year-old professional wrestler and cast member of the popular reality show “Terrace House,” which was produced by Japan’s Fuji Television Network and distributed on Netflix. After Kimura got into an altercation with a fellow house member for damaging her wrestling costume, she received a bombardment of hateful and racist comments regarding her appearance. On May 23, 2020, Kimura died by suicide. The show was canceled four days later.
Two Japanese men from Osaka and Fukui were charged with cyberbullying Kimura and faced a 9,000-yen (approximately $66) fine, although many believed the penalties were too light.
Japanese lawmakers began pushing for tougher cyberbullying laws in January, and an amended law was approved Wednesday by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. The bill states that cyberbullying may result in one-year imprisonment and fines of up to 300,000 yen (approximately $2,224). The current law lists the maximum penalty as 30 days in jail and a 10,000-yen (approximately $74) fine for cyberbullying.
The bill will take effect later this year, although it is not yet clear what defines an online insult as punishable under the new law. A review will also be conducted in three years to determine whether the revised penal code restricts freedom of speech.