Penalizing hate speech

The Kyoto District Court on Oct. 7 ordered an anti-Korean group, Zaitokukai, and activists to pay some ¥12 million in damages to a pro-Pyongyang school in Kyoto for disrupting classes by staging demonstrations in which they used hate speech against Koreans. The court also banned the street demonstrations within a 200-meter radius of the school.

This ruling, long overdue, is important because it has made it clear that speech that fans discrimination and hatred against a specific ethnic group is illegal. Zaitokukai has repeatedly conducted street demonstrations laced with hate speech in Tokyo’s Shin Okubo district and Osaka’s Tsuruhashi. It must take the ruling seriously and halt such activities.

The lawsuit was filed by Kyoto Chosen Daiichi Elementary School in Minami Ward, Kyoto. It requested ¥30 million in damages from Zaitokukai and associated activists, and a ban on their demonstrations. Discriminatory phrases were uttered through loudspeakers on three occasions when Zaitokukai activists demonstrated near the school from December 2009 to March 2010. The group claimed that its activities were a legitimate protest against the school’s setting up a speech platform for a morning assembly in a park without first getting permission from the Kyoto city government, adding that its protests should fall under the purview of freedom of speech as guaranteed by the Constitution. (The school principal was fined ¥100,000 in a separate case.)

The Kyoto District Court based its ruling on the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which Japan has ratified. The ruling stated that Zaitokukai and activists’ demonstrations near the pro-Pyongyang school and the group’s streaming of the demonstrations over the Internet constituted racial discrimination as prohibited by the treaty and as such are illegal. Without using the phrase “hate speech,” the court ruling said that the demonstrations terrorized students, made teaching in classes difficult, damaged the environment for quiet education activities, and harmed the honor of the school and its teachers and students.

Zaitokukai’s claim that its activities are legitimate is unreasonable given the phrases it used near the Korean school — “Throw Korean schools out of Japan,” “Children of spies,” “Cockroaches, maggots, go back to the Korean Peninsula,” “Any Korean who is discriminated against by Japan and feels mortified, go back to the Korean Peninsula,” etc. There is a possibility that the online streaming of the demonstrations helped to nurture anti-Korean feelings among some Japanese citizens.

It is noteworthy that the ruling said it was necessary to set the compensation amount at a level that serves to protect and provide relief to people who were targeted by the demonstrations. Thus it ordered payment of some ¥12.26 million in compensation.

The ruling will prompt public discussion on whether a law prohibiting hate speech should be enacted. While such a law might make it easier to crack down on hate speech, there is a chance that the authorities could abuse it by using it as a license to silence activities with which they disagree. The best outcome would be for ordinary citizens to reject hate speech and build up a social movement against it.

  • I disagree with this action by the courts because the Constitution is a context-dropping dogma needing an ethical substrate. Clearly the Japanese High Court lacks any coherency in this dept because the reason we go to war or arrest people who incite or prepare for violence is because its the basis of future violence. Its actually not the protesters who are the threat in this (rare) example, it is the school; which apparently supports not ‘Korean values’, but ‘North Korean totalitarianism’. For this reason, I’d argue that the protesters are drawing attention to the hypocrisy of the values of these ‘North Koreans’, and are therefore morally righteous. The school in contrast, apparently supports coercion of the worst force (I assume this is their position from the story), and by so doing, should have no right to access the Japanese justice system. Its a great story which highlights the moral bankruptcy of liberals (in the media) and conservatives (in the courts) in equal measure. Ah, it makes a rare breed of libertarian like myself proud (despite being in the not-so-humble minority). Watch and learn as the ‘system’ continues to self-destruct.

    • Perry Constantine

      “For this reason, I’d argue that the protesters are drawing attention to the hypocrisy of the values of these ‘North Koreans’, and are therefore morally righteous.”

      By calling them cockroaches and maggots and saying that any Korean (not North Korean, but Korean) who feels there’s any discrimination in Japan should go back to Korea? Hardly seems like the protestors are making the points you claim they are making. Instead, they are very much pounding on the tired old “Koreans are inferior to Japanese and should leave Japan” mantra spouted by small-minded bigots.

      • True, but then, the North Korean school by supporting North Korea have spurned their right to defence, if these are the values of the ‘organisation’. Now, you are talking about a loose assembly of protesters who might be functioning under very different values, some of whom happened to be racists. You can’t collectivise a crowd solely because a few members were using such language. This is why union moments and protests are such a bad mode for influence. Extortion rackets overrun and defined by the worst values. Thugs move in and define the code of conduct, and peace-loving people don’t expect this. But the police don’t have any basis to differentiate. Its why we need an effective democracy; so people don’t have to take to the streets to ‘extort’ influence. Otherwise we are sanctioning poor values. Any organisation that sanctions abhorrent values should be banned. They are right to protest….even if some members exhibit pot.kettle syndrome. After all, Japan, like ‘the Koreas’ is a collectivist country, its just that Japan is Westernised, and thus more practical. North Korea functioning with a more deluded ideology. More consistent, but to a more tragic theory of values based on self-renunciation.

      • Perry Constantine

        This wasn’t a loose assembly, this was the Zaitokukai. Their organization does not espouse any of what you claim. They are an ultra-right racist group, a non-violent version of the KKK.

      • Well, so you’d like to believe…but unless you are a member with inside knowledge, I dare say you are not in a position to know that privileged position. You probably just want to be right. If you can have that assurance, I’d still have a problem because the group members might have some measure of fear of other members. There is a broader context to consider. These are the types of values that Japan & Korea (even the West) assigned up for. I feel able to say I’m a libertarian without consequences…maybe they can’t.

      • Perry Constantine

        Do me a favor, try actually researching Zaitokukai before you call me a liar.

      • Drama….not calling you a liar. I implied that you are probably presumptuous…because you seem not to be acknowledging the independent identity of people. People commit crimes; not organisations, who are mere instruments for them. People walking a long a street can engage in a protest. Not all members of a group will share the same values.

        Now, having researched Zaitokukai and found them to be nationalists of a ‘non-violent’ persuasion. Don’t agree with nationalism, but then Japan in its entirety is nationalistic, so pot-kettle for Japan. Maybe you are different. North Korea is ‘violent’, so if they are protesting a school that sanctions North Korea, I say ‘good job’. I would not encourage violence, because that would be the act of a vigilante.
        My greatest problem with this organisation is their ‘selective’ disdain for welfare support & entitlements. It should not be a state function. Not for Japanese or North Koreans.This is an appraisal of this single act, not their history. That’s another conversation.

      • Perry Constantine

        And their racism is well-documented. They protested people in Halloween costumes, waving signs that said “this is not a white country” and they shouted “go home, white pigs” during a demonstration against granting foreigners the right to vote.