We need no suppressive 'human rights bill' -- Akahata editorial, March 17, 2005 (excerpts)

The Human Rights Protection bill that the government intends to submit in the current Diet session is arousing criticism. Disagreement or opposition is being expressed even by Liberal Democratic Party members of the Diet.

This is because the bill not only falls short of offering measures that will help swiftly solve human rights violations, despite the keen public demand, but will actually threaten the freedoms of speech and expression. The bill has substantial defects as follows:

The human rights commission to be established as an external body of the Ministry of Justice will be assigned to relieve human rights violation victims of illegal discrimination and abuses.

Although it is natural that the commission should control unjust and discriminatory treatments by government offices or corporations, the bill will put citizens' actions of speech and expression under control.

The vague definition of 'discrimination' will allow the commission to impose an arbitrary interpretation.

How can we accept such a bill that violates Article 21 of the Constitution: "Freedom of assembly and association as well as speech, press and all other forms of expression are guaranteed" ?

The bill will be too helpless in relieving victims of human rights violations by government authorities and private sector corporations.

The commission as an external body of the Justice Ministry cannot give relief to victims of human rights violations in jails, which are under the jurisdiction of the Justice Ministry. Despite many cases of violations by police or the Defense Agency regarding the freedoms of expression and privacy, the bill is not designed to make any recommendations or disclosures.

Also, the bill will not deal with prevalent human rights violations in corporations by leaving the matter to the Health, Labor, and Welfare Ministry.

By saying that the "commission shall pay due consideration to guaranteeing the freedom of expression of the news media," the government hints at 'freezing' the relevant clause. However, it can be lifted anytime and used to control the media with threats.

The clause regulating media activities must be eliminated, and violation of human rights caused by media reports should be resolved through media's voluntary efforts.

The P.E.N. Club's committees on speech/expression and human rights as well as five other media-related organizations have published opposition statements to the bill, saying that it is designed to allow easy-going regulation of freedom of expression.

We must stop the bill from being submitted to the Diet. What we need is a national consensus to establish a scheme for the relief of human rights victims, and start from scratch. (end)

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