National / Politics

Osaka Municipal Assembly delays decision on banning hate speech

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

The Osaka Municipal Assembly voted Wednesday to postpone a decision on whether to adopt Japan’s first municipal ordinance banning hate speech until at least autumn.

Instead, the city council released a nonbinding statement similar to what over 100 local governments have issued.

“In recent years, hate speech directed at foreigners in Japan with a specific nationality has taken place, creating concern about human rights problems involving foreigners. In the streets of Osaka as well, demonstrations involving hate speech have frequently occurred,” said the statement, which was addressed to the central government.

It noted that the United Nations’ Human Rights Committee has expressed concern about the spread of speech that meets the definition of racial discrimination under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has urged Japan to adopt legal restrictions to deal with hate speech.

“From the view of protecting human rights, we strongly request that the central government promote effective legal measures for the eradication of hate speech,” the Osaka Municipal Assembly statement said.

The decision to postpone discussion on an ordinance until later this year came amid concerns among assembly members over whether such a measure would violate the constitutional right to freedom of speech.

Political parties opposed to Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, whose Osaka Ishin no Kai (One Osaka) backed the ordinance, also expressed fears that the proposal did not sufficiently spell out what the selection process would be for a mayor-appointed committee of experts to determine the city’s position on hate speech claims.

Five people would investigate hate speech allegations. Each member would be chosen for their legal expertise and serve a single two-year term. The committee could review claims from both the accuser and the accused.

If it determined that what was said qualifies as hate speech, the perpetrator would be named on the city’s website. The city would also offer legal assistance to the victim if needed.

Yoshitaka Tsuji, a Komeito council member, said his party had concerns about the way the committee might operate, and would seek some revisions to the current draft.

“It would also be good for Osaka to take a look at local governments outside Japan that have passed ordinances to curb hate speech,” he said.