A man has been charged by Tokyo prosecutors over online abuse of Kimura Hana, a female pro-wrestler and star of reality TV show “Terrace House” who died last year. But a broadcast ethics probe found that local broadcaster Fuji Television Network had not violated her human rights.
Kimura is understood to have died by suicide in May last year after receiving online abuse about her appearance and personality. The show, which involved six young people sharing living quarters, aired within Japan on FujiTV and on global streamer Netflix elsewhere. It was canceled after Kimura’s death.
A spokesman for Tokyo Prosecutors’ Office said they had made a “summary indictment,” concerning public insults, against a man from Osaka in his twenties who has not been named. A December police report to prosecutors said that the man: “posted messages on a social media account of the victim, including ‘You have such an awful personality. Is your life worth living?’ and ‘Hey, hey. When will you die?’ ”
Negative reactions by other members of the public also peaked following an episode that only aired in Japan in which Kimura was seen arguing with another cast member. Before her death Kimura made Instagram posts that suggested she no longer wanted to live.
Local media reported that the Osaka man had been given a ¥9,000 ($80) fine, which he chose to pay immediately. The man had earlier identified himself as the author of derogatory online comments and apologized to Kimura’s family.
Kimura’s family had launched a complaint against Fuji TV.
The human rights committee of the Broadcasting Ethics & Program Improvement Organization, an independent media complaints body in Japan, criticized the network, but did not agree that Fuji TV had abused Kimura’s rights.
The BPO committee said that broadcasters should pay attention to the physical and mental well-being of reality show cast due to their targeting by viewers. It said that Fuji TV lacked attention. But it noted that Fuji TV had offered Kimura help after she harmed herself following an earlier episode that had aired online.
While the committee said there were “problems in terms of broadcasting ethics,” the report concluded: “It cannot be said that her ability to make free decisions had been stripped.”
If you or anyone you know in the U.S. is having thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources. In other territories, please call your local suicide hotline.