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  5. Osaka City Ordinance Against Hate Speech

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FOCUS December 2016 Volume 86

Osaka City Ordinance Against Hate Speech


The Osaka City legislature enacted the Osaka City Ordinance on Dealing with Hate Speech on 18 January 2016, which took effect on 1 July 2016. The national law on elimination of hate speech was enacted several months later, but it took effect earlier on 3 June 2016.1

The city ordinance was a response to the series of public gatherings attacking Korean residents in Osaka city.

Hate Speech Defined
The Ordinance defines hate speech as 2 
 an act of expression that meets all the following criteria:
(a) that it is undertaken for the purpose of any of the following
i. to exclude individuals with particular racial or ethnic attributes or groups of such individuals (hereafter referred to as “particular individuals or groups”) from society;
ii. to restrict the rights or freedoms of particular individuals or groups; or,
iii. to incite hatred or discriminatory attitudes or violence against particular individuals or groups (when such a purpose is explicitly acknowledged).
(b) that its content or style falls under any of the following
i. it amounts to significant contempt or slander targeting particular individuals or groups; or,
ii. it threatens particular individuals or a significant number of the individuals of such groups;
(c) that it is undertaken at a place or in a manner that makes it possible for the public to know its content.

The activities involved include any of the following: 3
(a) selling, distributing or putting on the screen printed materials, optical disks (including the mediums that can securely record certain matters in a similar way) or other materials that have recorded other acts of expression;
(b) making the documents or drawings or pictorial images that have recorded other acts of expression accessible to, or viewable by, the public by using the Internet or any … other advanced telecommunication [system]; or,
(c) any other activities that disseminate other acts of expression.

Measures to Curb Hate Speech
The Ordinance provides for two measures to curb hate speech in the city. One is an awareness-raising measure that aims to increase the interest and understanding of the general public regarding the human rights abuse caused by hate speech.

The second measure is a public announcement by the City Mayor declaring a “particular act of expression as hate speech, along with the summary of its content, the measures that have been taken to prevent its dissemination and the name of the persons or organizations who were involved in the act of expression.” The City Mayor should avoid disseminating the content of the hate speech involved in making the public announcement.

The public announcement measure requires the following steps:
a. Filing of complaint - citizens or members of relevant organizations who consider that hate speech has occurred can file a complaint with the office of the City Mayor to stop the act;
b. Determination of existence of hate speech – before taking action, the City Mayor will seek the views of an auxillary Council on whether or not the act complained about is covered by the ordinance. However, the City Mayor can also act on an “ex-officio basis on an act of hate speech when deemed necessary;”
c. Decision on the complaint – the City Mayor will make an announcement through the internet or other means allowed by the city regulations.

The auxiliary Council under the Ordinance expresses its views on the City Mayor’s inquiries. It also has the “competence to inquire into and consider other important matters concerning the implementation of the present Ordinance, in response to the [City] Mayor’s inquiries, and to express its views to the [City] Mayor on such matters.”

The members of the Council are appointed by the City Mayor from “among persons with relevant knowledge and experience, or other appropriate persons,” and they “should not be officers of a political party or other political organization, or actively engage in political activities, while in office.”4

Korean Residents in Osaka
The Ordinance does not mention any specific group of people whose rights it aims to protect. But the Korean residents in Osaka, who have been the target of several “hate speech” public gatherings, would fit the definition of “citizens or the members of relevant organizations” who have “particular racial or ethnic attributes.” Other non-Japanese residents would likewise be covered by this definition.

On the day (1 July 2016) the Ordinance took effect, a “Korean residents group in Osaka filed a complaint ...  against eight individuals and one group who have uploaded hate speech footage to video websites such as YouTube or repeatedly posted discriminatory remarks on social media such as Twitter.”5

In September 2016, the Osaka District Court ruled against a member of a group that has been staging public rallies to attack the Korean residents. The news report explains:6 
 Freelance writer Lee Sin Hae, 45, filed the lawsuit against "Zainichi Tokken o Yurusanai Shimin no Kai" (literally, "citizens' group that [oppose] special rights for Korean residents of Japan," or "Zaitokukai") and its former chairman Makoto Sakurai, 44, demanding 5.5 million yen in compensation for defamation by fueling discrimination against Korean residents through hate speech campaigns.

 ***  ***  ***
 Presiding Judge Tamami Masumori acknowledged that some of the things Sakurai had said and tweeted invaded her personal rights and concluded such actions constituted insults banned under the U.N. International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Curbing these hate speech activities by implementing the Ordinance will have a positive impact on the situation of other communities or organizations in Osaka city with “particular racial or ethnic attributes,” which also face the threat of being targeted for hate speech by groups of similar orientation as Zaitokukai.

For further information, please contact HURIGHTS OSAKA.

1) See “Japan's Hate Speech Elimination Law,” FOCUS Asia-Pacific, issue 85, September 2016,
2) Article 2 of the Ordinance. This text and other texts of the Ordinance are based on unofficial translation of the Ordinance by HURIGHTS OSAKA. See full text of the Ordinance at
3) Article 2 (2), ibid.
4) Ibid.
5) XINHUA, “Korean residents file complaint against hate speech in Japan's Osaka,” 1 July 2016,
6) The Mainichi, "Court orders anti-Korean group to compensate woman over hate speech," 28 September 2016,