REEDOM ON THE
hardcore child pornography, including electronically,
but possessing it for non-commercial use
remains legal except in Kyoto prefecture, central Japan, where police arrested three people for
purchasing child pornography online for the first time in September 2012 under an ordinance in
effect since the previous January.
Although nationalistic hate speech and incitement to racially-
motivated violence is proliferating online, the government has taken no action to curb it on
grounds it is already criminalized under the penal code; yet police in 2012 were more likely to use
the relevant clauses to prosecute antinuclear demonstrators than groups whose on and offline
slogans included exhortations to “kill Koreans.”
Article 175 of the Japanese penal code bans the sale or distribution of broader categories of obscene
material, and while it dates from over 100 years ago, it is considered to apply online.
does not define what constitutes obscenity, leading to concerns that it may infringe on artistic
expression and LGBT rights.
No citizens have faced politically motivated arrest or prosecution for content they have published
online, though observers believe that police sometimes overstep during cybercrime investigations.
Four people, including a student, were detained for nearly a month in July 2012 for sending
electronic terrorism threats that had actually been triggered without their knowledge, by
In November 2012, police charged 2channel founder Hiroyuki Nishimura with abetting
the drug trade, saying he failed to delete a post from someone trading amphetamines on the
rambunctious bulletin board; the allegation was complicated by the fact that Nishimura no longer
manages the site,
and was dropped without explanation in March.
Police were less diligent in
another case, however. On November 6, 2012, a woman in Kanagawa prefecture was stabbed and
killed by a stalker police had refused to investigate in March, when she reported him for sending
over 1000 threatening emails in 20 days—in part because the law governing stalking does not
explicitly ban harassment via email.
A bill to establish an independent human rights commission
William Sparrow, “Japan's Lolita Merchants Feel the Heat,” Asia Times Online, February 23, 2008,
Tomasz Janowski and Teppei Kasai, “Pressure on Japan for Stronger Laws on Child Pornography,” Reuters, September 19,
Tessa Morris‐Suzuki, "Freedom of Hate Speech.”
James R. Alexander, “Obscenity, Pornography, and the Law in Japan,” Asian‐Pacific Law and Policy Journal 4, no.1 (February
2003), available at University of Pittsburgh Johnstown,
http://faculty.upj.pitt.edu/jalexander/Research%20archive/Japanese%20obscenity%20law/Oshima%20article.pdf; “Penal Code,
Act No. 45 of April 24, 1907,” available at Japanese Law Translation,
Keiko Tanaka, “Japan's Porn Law is Strangling Artists,” February 18, 2013, http://globalvoicesonline.org/2013/02/18/japans‐
“Police Release Suspects, say Virus Likely Used to Threaten Mass Murder,” Asahi Shimbun, October 8, 2012,
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201210080093. “Police Arrest Tokyo Man in Malicious Computer
Hacking Case,” Asahi Shimbun, February 10, 2013, http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201302100067.
“Prosecution of 2channel Founder Draws Flak,” Japan Times, November 26, 2012,
“Charges Dropped Against 2ch Founder Hiroyuki Nishimura,” Anime News Network, March 19, 2013,
Keiko Tanaka, “Standing Up for Stalking Victims in Japan,” Global Voices, December 11, 2012,