Japan’s Parliament Member Taro Yamada Responds to Latest Salvo in UN Attacks on Free Speech

(Please note: the video above is queued to the part we’re talking about.)

On Twitter, Japanese government representative and leader of the Party to Protect Freedom of Expression said that the UN had responded to Japan’s response and offered further justification for the censorship of manga, anime and video games, and that he planned to fight it again, mostly through the Minister of Foreign Affairs. This week, on his weekly net broadcast, he brought it up and talked about it at length (about 25 minutes). One of the guests was Kotaro Ogino, who is the founder of The Uguisu Ribbon campaign, which works to protect free speech in Japan. He also offered his responses. What did they say?

First of all, let’s get the important part out of the way. The overall consensus was that the rebuttal was “nonsense,” (Yamada actually said that exact word) and referring to the sneaky way a UN representative on the human rights commission tried to use an interpretation of international child pornography acts to pressure them, Yamada reiterated, “No matter what kind of warnings or reports the human rights commissions tries to point out in this way, our Japanese government has as much as said we will not concede to them.”

This came out in a conversation of how it wasn’t just CEDAW (Committee to End Discrimination Against Women) that was pressuring Japan for censorship of their artistic industries and how both people on the panel thought it was important to fight every time they try a new angle. Ogino mentioned how six years ago, the argument was to ban all comics, anime and games.

Now because of the reaction to that, they’ve narrowed it down to “ones that express sexual violence” from CEDAW or ones that they believe could be interpreted as child pornography from the humans rights commission. Yamada pointed out that governments tend to try to enforce censorship laws and it is important for their people to stand up and fight each time it happens.

To back up a minute, in response to CEDAW’s argument that the stereotypes in manga, anime and games promote violence toward women, Ogino said he thought their argument was constructed backwards. Ogino characterized their argument as, “Gee, I don’t know what’s wrong, but there’s something I don’t like about this, it feel like it’s dangerous, first they decide that. Then therefore, how should regulate censorship for Japan’s manga, anime and video games? As a logical argument, it’s backwards.”

Again, Keiko Takemiya’s The Song of the Wind and the Trees was brought out as an counter-argument to the argument that only “extreme” violent acts would be outlawed. It was again pointed out that women in these fields have been extremely prosperous compared to wider fields and that censoring the material would limit them. Yamada pointed out that in the wider publication industry, Japanese women fought back in the manga industry the most for control of their work and that their slice of the market could by no means be considered insignificant.

Both Ogino and Yamada agreed that to single out manga, anime and video games was in Yamada’s words, “discrimination.” Yamada said if you’re going to make an argument that art causes these problems, then you have to explain why you’re not trying to regulate novels. Yamada went on to explain that an argument could be made that since novels leave more to the imagination, that they encourage the mind to run free, so why not censor them? He then went on to say that if you think about it in this way, it’s strange that they’re focusing on anime, manga and games. (In other words, their choice seems to be selective.) Both thought that none of the UN’s representatives knew what they’re talking about and speculated that they’re not familiar with Japanese society and would welcome somebody actually knowing more about Japanese society representing the UN.

There was some discussion that it was the EU trying to enforce their values on Japanese culture. They pointed out that the consensus seemed to be that they tend to be more sensitive about their children over in a lot of the EU countries, but as Yamada has repeatedly said and repeated in response again on his web page, to the point where it has almost become his catch phrase, “While it’s important to talk about human rights on a global level, when it comes to cultural problems, they should as much as possible be discussed by each country that is actually affected by the problem.”

Yamada reinforced his commitment to fight whatever they came up with and said that he thought that Japanese Foreign Minister’s comments and his commitment to responding to each attack has, in Yamada’s words, “a lot of meaning,” going forward.

Finally, there was discussion of what kind of society the UN’s recommendations would lead to. I personally liked this part the best, as Yamada said:

Expression is free, but once you’ve said it, you’re responsible for what you’ve said. If something you’ve said has hurt somebody or made them feel disgusted, you might be punished or it might lead to you losing some of your integrity or honor. And if it has some sort influence on their life, you might be expected to own up to it. However, when it comes to what to say, what can and can’t be said is a problem everyone solves with their inner voice. If you start punishing people for that, they will start to fear what they can say and be unable to say anything. Nevertheless, Boer-Buquicchi and the human rights commission think that way. First, decide that it’s all evil. Because it’s evil, go to court and prove your innocence. That would be some kind of society, all right.


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