Photo/Illutration Osaka city government officials on Dec. 27 reveal the names of two individuals recognized as having committed acts of hate speech. (Yuka Honda)

OSAKA--Osaka on Dec. 27 became the first municipality to publicly shame two individuals recognized as having engaged in hate speech by releasing their names.

A city government ordinance designed to cut down on hate speech has a provision that calls for publicly disclosing the contents of the hate speech as well as the name of the individual responsible for it.

But while six previous cases have been recognized as hate speech, the authorities were unable to disclose the names of the perpetrators because the posts to the internet were made under handles that did not allow for identifying the poster.

However, on Dec. 27, two individuals were named after an assessment committee examined the contents of the hate speech. The city government had decided in July that the acts constituted hate speech but waited for the consent of the committee before disclosing the names.

Those publicly humiliated were identified as Kaoru Kurita, who operates an internet website that goes by the name of "Hoshu Sokuho" (Conservative flash news), and Dairyo Kawahigashi, who belongs to a political group whose aim is apparently to drive out all Koreans from Japan.

In its decision, the assessment committee pointed to the fact that Kurita edited postings to internet blogs to give a specific ideological bent and said the aim was to "restrict fundamental human rights." Some of the articles compiled on the website had parts that said, "Don't let Koreans use city facilities" and "If you don't like it here, leave Japan."

The committee added that comments posted by readers of the articles amplified the negative tone of the postings.

According to city officials, Kawahigashi in 2016 took to the streets of Osaka and ranted comments such as, "If you see a Korean, consider them a pervert." The statements were recorded and posted to the internet as audio files. That led the assessment committee to conclude the comments "triggered repeated threats."

The disclosure of the names was made possible because of information provided by a group campaigning against hate speech and the fact that Kawahigashi had repeatedly stated his name in the audio files.

Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura, who was Osaka mayor when the ordinance was passed, met with reporters on Dec. 27 and said: "Hate speech is unacceptable. Cases that have been recognized as such after going through strict procedures should lead to the disclosure of the names of the perpetrators."

Shigeki Sakamoto, a professor of international law at Doshisha University who chaired the assessment committee, said, "While taking into sufficient consideration freedom of speech, we will continue with our assessments while seeking to restrain hate speech and protecting human rights, which are the objectives of the ordinance."

Song Jong-ji, 60, who heads the Osaka group that asked that action be taken against Kurita and Kawahigashi, said it was highly significant that "a public entity has announced that hate speech is evil."

The Kawasaki city government on Dec. 12 established an ordinance that has criminal penalties against hate speech, the first of its kind in Japan. The ordinance, which will take full effect from July, also has a provision to disclose the names of violators.

The Tokyo metropolitan government issued an ordinance to respect human rights that went into effect from April, but to date no perpetrator has been publicly identified.

(This article was written by Yuka Honda and Asako Hanafusa.)