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Japan toughens defamation penalties after wrestler takes own life

Kyoko Kimura wears a T-shirt with an image of her daughter and wrestler Hana (Kyodo News via AP)
Kyoko Kimura wears a T-shirt with an image of her daughter and wrestler Hana (Kyodo News via AP)

Japan’s parliament has approved tougher penalties over criminal defamation in a move that followed a bullied wrestler taking her own life.

The amended law has prompted debate over free speech.

Parliamentary deliberations on toughening the defamation law began in January after Hana Kimura took her own life aged just 22 in May 2020.

Ms Kimura faced bullying and insults on social media that year after appearing on the Netflix show Terrace House, about three men and three women temporarily living together at a shared house in Tokyo.

Her death triggered a wave of discussion about anonymous bullying and hateful messages.

A tribute to Hana Kimura
A picture of wrestler Hana Kimura is on display during a memorial wrestling match in Tokyo (Kyodo News via AP)

Ms Kimura’s mother Kyoko, also a famous professional wrestler, was a driving force behind the legal change.

She testified to parliament in April and said she has continuously faced insults and accusations of using her daughter’s name to make money.

The amended law will be formally enacted later this year.

It will add a prison term of one year with an option of forced labour, and fines of up to 300,000 yen (£1,800) to convicted violators – a change from only short-term detention and fines of less than 10,000 yen (£60) in the current law.

The legislation was approved by the upper house on Monday after earlier passing in the lower house, the more powerful in Japan’s two-chamber parliament.

Due to free speech concerns, the law is scheduled to be reviewed by outside experts in three years.

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