New justice minister against outlawing hate speech

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

The newly appointed justice minister on Thursday gave clues as to her priorities in office, restating the ministry’s intention to clean up a discredited foreign trainees program but saying she is disinclined to outlaw hate speech.

Asked about the death penalty, Yoko Kamikawa paused and appeared to choose her words carefully, saying she will carry out her duties “with much caution and solemnity.”

On hate speech, she said that while vilifying an ethnic minority and calling for its extermination is “extremely disappointing,” Japan must protect freedom of expression.

Kamikawa was apparently referring to racist rallies organized by far-right activists targeting, among others, ethnic Korean residents.

“Such acts instigate public hatred, and I believe they are an egregious problem,” Kamikawa said.

But she said criminalizing hate speech would risk infringing on the legitimate right to free speech, a position taken by other ministers in recent times.

Kamikawa assumed the top post at the Justice Ministry last month following the resignation of her short-lived predecessor, Midori Matsushima, who quit over an alleged campaign violation.

Regarding hate speech, Kamikawa said her ministry will bolster efforts to educate the public about universal human rights and do what is allowed by law to safeguard victims.

“We much protect every human right possible,” she said.

Kamikawa also reaffirmed her determination to overhaul the foreign trainee program, which critics have called rife with human rights violations.

Despite its purported aim to foster industrial skills in developing countries, the Industrial Trainee and Technical Internship Program has seen many of its foreign interns allegedly underpaid or forced to carry out overtime work by exploitative employers.

“We will strengthen our efforts to oversee the employers and better manage the program to make sure there will be no more cases of maltreatment,” Kamikawa said.

She restated the ministry’s plan to make legal revisions and overhaul the program by the end of fiscal 2015.

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