Experts concerned about bill amending Child Pornography Prevention Law, fearing restrictions on manga, anime, investigating authorities’ view reflected in judgment, freedom of expression undermined
The ruling coalition has submitted a bill amending the Child Pornography Prevention Law to the current Diet session. The bill prohibits the individual possession of child pornography and indecent videos. Manga (comics) and anime (animated cartoons) may be subject to restrictions in the future. Given this, cartoonists and experts have voiced concern, fearing that an enactment of the revision bill would lead to undermining the principle of freedom of expression.
Taro Minamoto, a cartoonist, is also feeling anxious about the recent move to revise the law, saying: “The boundary line between art and pornography remains blurred.” One of his works features an 11-year-old girl who was sold and works as a prostitute for five years. This comic includes scenes of her being forced to prostitute herself. Minamoto grumbled: “If such descriptions are prohibited, it will become impossible to represent historical facts. It is unclear what would be designated as obscene and who would designate such.”
The ruling camp’s bill has been submitted to the House of Representatives. The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) has also drafted its own bill. Manga and anime are not subject to the restrictions in both bills. But the ruling camp’s bill notes that necessary measures will be taken in an additional clause according to the circumstances. But many concerned individuals, including Minamoto, fear that restrictions might be imposed on manga and anime in the future.
There are comics with explicit love scenes or violent scenes. Minamoto said: “There are some that give us an unpleasant feeling, but restrictions should not be placed on manga. Although some people might have indecent thoughts while reading manga, not all readers will commit a crime. Once restrictions are placed, the scope of subjects to restrictions might gradually expand.”Take a picture of a child in athletic wear as an example. Different persons, for instance, the child’s parent or a pedophile, see it in a different way. Minamoto said: “The government, based on imagination, will impose restrictions [on manga and anime] while mixing up art with crime. If we begin to describe only what is allowed to describe, such is against the principle of freedom of expression. Restrictions should be placed not in the creation process but in the distribution process. It is terrible to restrict everything, an act that could lead to a witch-hunt. It is also feared that freedom of expression might be undermined as a result of creators daunted by regulations.”
The ruling camp’s revision bill prohibits the possession of child porn and punishes violators. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) has drafted a bill that criminalizes the purchase and possession of child pornography.
Since the Child Pornography Prevention Law was enacted in 1999, discussions have been conducted on whether the possession of child porn should be regarded as illegal and on whether comics and anime should be subject to restrictions. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Japan has carried out a campaign to oppose child pornography since this spring. The association has insisted on the need to define comics and anime depicting child molestation as illegal, in addition to the ban on the possession of child porn.
Kanemitsu Daniel Makoto, a translator and the co-president of AMI Contact Network composed of manga or anime writers, said: “Pictures of children suffering from sexual abuse should be eradicated,” but he added: “Products of imagination should be considered separately.”
Kanemitsu said: “Since the definition of children pornography is ambiguous, a subjective point of view is inevitably reflected in determining whether products are illegal or not. The investigating authorities can make a judgment based on their own discretion, so the ban on the simple possession of child porn could provide the root for an arrest for a separate crime. I am against the revision of the law before its concept is clearly defined.”
He is concerned about the recent trend of harmful or unpleasant products regarded as “illegal.” Lawyer Takashi Yamaguchi said: “What is harmful and what is unpleasant vary by the individual. Even if the creatures are nasty and dirty, they are products of imagination after all. Cracking down on such products might lead to thought suppression.”
Yamaguchi pointed out that a plan to restrict the possession of child porn was dropped four years ago because it was feared that the investigating authorities might abuse their right.
People involved in selling the novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover, including writer Tadashi Ito, who translated the book into Japanese, were found guilty of pornography in 1957. In reference to this case, Yamaguchi commented: “People’s values change with the times, but once restrictions are introduced, it will become almost impossible to regain the lost freedom of speech. Restrictions should not be placed on expressions in accordance with people’s sense of values in a certain period, and freedom of creation should not be taken away from future generations.”
Kenta Yamada, assistant professor at Senshu University, said: “There is a marked tendency to ban everything, mixing up acts involving a sex crime that should be absolutely banned, something that should be restricted in the distribution process so that the public is not exposed to it, and something harmful for young people. What should be banned legally must be strictly controlled.”
Yamada also worries about an expansion of the targets subject to restrictions. He said: “Everything tends to be restricted by law and civil rights under the context of safety, security, and soundness. Accordingly, the scope of matters restricted has expanded to include even unfair and harmful products, in addition to illegal productions.”
Yamada said that the ban on the individual possession of child pornography might lead to thought control and could result in changing the major principle of freedom of expression. In many cases, an exception once made has come into common use. Regarding the DPJ-proposed establishment of a crime for the possession of child pornography, too, it contains the same risk, depending on how to specify it.
Yamada said that many productions of imagination can be voluntarily restricted in the process of distribution, and not in the process of creation. He said: “The scope of matters controlled by law or public authority should be limited. The scope of the rights and freedom guaranteed under the Constitution has significantly been narrowed down.”
Source: Tokyo Shimbun