Osaka eyes setting up body to assess hate speech


A municipal panel on Wednesday proposed to the city of Osaka that it set up a body to judge whether racist demonstrations held on the streets amount to hate speech, in a bid to crack down on discrimination.

The panel also said the names of groups that have been involved in activities recognized as hate speech should be disclosed to the public, while the city government should offer financial support to victims who have filed lawsuits.

Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, who received the panel’s report the same day, said: “I hope to create a framework (of measures to deal with hate speech) in Osaka, which is said to have the largest number of Korean residents in Japan, and make it spread nationwide.”

He also said he will seek to create related ordinances to realize the panel’s proposal in fiscal 2015 or later.

According to the proposal, people who feel insulted or threatened by propaganda attacking a person or groups on the basis of race or ethnicity can ask the body, consisting of lawyers and experts, to check whether the activities constituted hate speech.

The body will also hear from people who have been involved in hate speech propaganda activities, before making a judgment. It will also discuss whether the case should be disclosed to the public, and whether the city should assist victims with their legal costs.

The body is also expected to play a role in encouraging the removal of hate speech videos posted online.

The municipal panel considered whether it should include in its recommendations the introduction of punishments, such as imprisonment, but decided that it is difficult to take such measures from the viewpoint of freedom of expression, which is constitutionally guaranteed.

Yuko Kawasaki, a lawyer who led the panel, said: “It is difficult to set punishments or regulations on hate speech. I think this is the best we can do.”

A 43-year-old man, whose father is from the island of Jeju in South Korea, said he saw progress on the issue but also said he was disappointed that measures to regulate hate speech, such as a restriction on the use of public facilities, were not included in the panel’s proposal.

“The emotional scar stemming from verbal violence remains,” the man, who has Japanese nationality, said, adding that the only way to stop hate speech is by “regulating” it.