An independent committee of a media watchdog on Tuesday stopped short of recognizing a human rights violation by popular reality television show “Terrace House,” aired by Fuji Television Network Inc., in relation to the death of Hana Kimura, a 22-year-old professional wrestler who participated in the TV show.
Kimura is believed to have killed herself after receiving abusive comments on social media from viewers of the show.
The human rights committee of the Broadcasting Ethics & Program Improvement Organization (BPO) reviewed the reality show in response to a claim of a human rights violation filed by Kyoko Kimura, Hana’s mother.
The committee said that the show had “problems in terms of broadcasting ethics.” Broadcasters should pay attention to the physical and mental well-being of cast members of reality shows because they tend to become targets of empathy and hate from viewers, but the Fuji Television show lacked such attention, it said.
But the committee said that it is difficult to recognize a human rights violation in relation to “Terrace House,” noting that the broadcaster offered a certain level of psychological support to Hana Kimura after she harmed herself following the distribution of an episode online before it was aired on TV. The committee concluded that “it cannot be said that her ability to make free decisions had been stripped.”
Hana’s mother has claimed that the “Terrace House” star’s death was triggered by a flood of hateful comments on social media after she was described on the show as a violent woman.
“We take the (BPO’s) decision seriously and will make organizational efforts to tackle social media-related issues, including through a newly established department in charge of such matters,” Fuji Television said.
At a news conference, Kyoko Kimura said that she was disappointed with the BPO’s conclusion.
“I wanted to help Hana, and I’m thinking about it,” she said. “I feel helpless.”
Meanwhile, Tokyo public prosecutors issued a summary indictment Tuesday against a man in Osaka Prefecture on the charge of insulting Hana Kimura.
The same day, Tokyo Summary Court ordered the Osaka man, who is in his 20s, to pay a fine of ¥9,000. He paid the fine immediately.
According to the indictment, the man posted defamatory comments to Kimura’s Twitter account eight times around mid-May last year, including messages ridiculing her, questioning the value of her life and asking when she would die.
In the early hours of May 23, Kimura was found with no vital signs at her apartment in Tokyo and was later confirmed dead. She is believed to have killed herself.
Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police Department examined comments posted to her Twitter account between the end of March and her death.
The Osaka man was referred to public prosecutors last December after he came forward to identify himself in an email to Kimura’s mother and offered her an apology.
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency in Japan, please call 119 for immediate assistance. The TELL Lifeline is available for those who need free and anonymous counseling at 03-5774-0992. For those in other countries, visit https://bit.ly/Suicide-Hotlines for a detailed list of resources and assistance.
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