EDITORIAL: Tokyo should apply hate speech ordinance with care, transparency

TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) - It is vital to deter speech and behaviors that violate human rights without unduly restricting freedom of expression.

 An ordinance on human rights, including measures against hate speech, gained approval at the Tokyo metropolitan assembly, the first enactment of such an ordinance by a prefecture. The ordinance will go into effect in April next year.

 The law on measures against hate speech that took effect two years ago requires even local governments to make efforts to implement measures, based on their own circumstances.

 As the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics approach, the Tokyo metropolitan government has enacted its ordinance to realize the philosophy of the Olympic Charter, which does not allow discrimination of any kind. In addition to hate speech, it also prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.

 Demonstrations calling for the rejection of Korean residents in Japan continue in Tokyo and other places. In Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, where many foreign residents live, such demonstrations calmed down for a while but then saw a sudden increase last year. Discriminatory actions that harm the dignity of individuals are unpardonable. To deter such actions, some sorts of measures are needed.

 The Tokyo metropolitan government’s ordinance sets out a guideline in which the usage of facilities managed by the metropolitan government is restricted. Once an action is recognized as an expression of discrimination, the Tokyo government will take steps to prevent the proliferation of such an expression and make public an outline of the actions in question.

 The facilities eyed by the ordinance include stages in parks and halls that need approval from the metropolitan government after it receives applications for the usage.

 It is understandable that the metropolitan government will take measures to prevent the proliferation of such expressions and make public announcements of actions actually done. The Osaka city government established an ordinance to the same effect two years ago.

Be a role model

 What is worrisome about Tokyo’s ordinance is that the metropolitan government will determine in advance whether there are risks of discriminatory speech and behavior.

 In judging whether there has been an expression of discrimination, the metropolitan government will hear opinions from its expert panel. The ordinance includes detailed rules for examining such expressions, but guidelines — which are key to these examinations — have yet to be decided.

 Before the enactment of the ordinance, the metropolitan government conducted a hearing of experts. Some expressed opinions such as, “It is important to clarify the guideline, especially of not allowing the use of facilities, so that the metropolitan government avoids excessive use of discretion.” It is a reasonable opinion.

 It is also indispensable to make transparent the process of screening when the metropolitan government decides not to allow or to cancel the usage of facilities. There is room in Tokyo’s ordinance for it to be used to the advantage of governors with any political position. Isn’t it possible to manipulate a conclusion, depending on the members a governor selects for the expert panel?

 The governments of Kyoto Prefecture and the city of Kawasaki have already set their guidelines on restricting the use of facilities. Kawasaki’s basic policy stipulates that “it should not be restricted only because of subjective risk or abstract possibility.”

 Tokyo’s ward governments and other local governments are expected to follow the metropolitan government in enacting such an ordinance. As a role model, the Tokyo government is required to apply the ordinance carefully.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 12, 2018)

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