Defamation Laws In Japan

In Japan, defamation can be prosecuted either criminally or civilly.

Under Article 230-1 of the Criminal Code of Japan:

“(1) A person who defames another by alleging facts in public shall, regardless of whether such facts are true or false, be punished by imprisonment with or without work for not more than three (3) years or a fine of not more than 500,000 yen.”

If the act relates to matters of public interest and has been conducted solely for the benefit of the public, the truth or falsity of the alleged facts shall be examined, and punishment shall not be imposed if they are proven to be true.  (See Article 230-2 of the Criminal Code).  Article 32 of the Criminal Code provides for the Statute of Limitations for filing a criminal action for defamation which shall prescribe in ten (10) years.

On the other hand, a person defamed may file a civil suit against the defamer based on tort under Article 709 and 710 of the Civil Code of Japan.  Under Article 723 of the said Civil Code, the court may, at the request of the victim, order a person who defamed others to effect appropriate measures to restore the reputation of the victim in lieu of, or in addition to, damages.    As expressly stated under Article 724 of the Civil Code, the right to demand compensation for damages in tort shall be extinguished by prescription if it is not exercised by the victim within three years from the time of the knowledge of the damage and the identity of the perpetrator; the same shall apply when twenty years have elapsed from the time the tortious act has been committed.

Criminal libel thrives in Japan.  Hundreds of people are arrested for criminal libel every year.  The national police takes an active part in arresting perpetrators.    Moreover, Internet libel in Japan makes it more challenging for the police officers to perform their jobs in arresting the suspects.  Victims of libel usually resort to criminal prosecution, rather than filing a civil suit.   The reason is that judges do not usually award a big amount for damages (usually as high as $50,000 only) in a civil suit.  Besides, since the police officers take their jobs seriously in apprehending the libel perpetrators, victims of libel would always be assured that the police enforcers will always be there to provide support.