- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Japan’s child porn

The U.S. ambassador in Tokyo is trying to shame Japanese lawmakers into outlawing the private possession of child pornography, noting that Japan is one of only two top industrialized countries where collecting obscene images of children is legal.

“The world is losing the fight against child pornography,” Ambassador J. Thomas Schieffer wrote in the Daily Yomiuri and Yomiuri Shimbun newspapers.

Mr. Schieffer said the campaign to stop child porn is more difficult in Japan, where possession of the images is legal, although the production, distribution and sale are not. Internet pornography involving children also falls into a loophole.

“The term, ‘child pornography,’ misrepresents the heinous nature of this crime,” Mr. Schieffer wrote.

He noted that while adult porno actors can make their own decisions about the business, children are coerced into appearing on videos or Internet sites.

“We are talking about child rape,” he said. “Any discussion of child pornography must acknowledge the devastating and lasting effect it has on the children who are victimized.”

Mr. Schieffer said Japan and Russia are the only two members of the Group of Eight industrialized nations that condone the private possession of child pornography.

He added that police are hampered in their attempts to investigate online child pornography by their inability to obtain search warrants to confiscate and search private computers. Police occasionally have success, like the raids in Tokyo in October that netted 96,000 DVDs and brought charges against seven suspects for possessing pornography with the intent to sell it.

Some Japanese legislators are trying to revise the law. Seiko Noda, a member of the lower house of parliament, last year called for a complete ban on the private possession of child pornography, including the popular and sexually explicit anime and manga comic books. An opinion poll in October found that 86.5 percent of the Japanese public said those comics should be regulated.

In his newspaper articles, Mr. Schieffer also tackled the objections of Japanese lawmakers who think private possession of child pornography is a matter of free speech.

“Virtually all child pornography is obscene under international standards,” he said. “The victimization of children is not entitled to protection.”

Russian restrictions

Leaders of a congressional human rights panel criticized Russia for severely restricting the number of foreign observers allowed to monitor the March 2 presidential election.

They also complained that Russia placed so many barriers on pre-election observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that it cannot effectively evaluate the fairness of the presidential campaign.

“Russia’s decision to restrict the number of election observers is quite unfortunate and undermines an essential aspect of the OSCE and the [Council of Europe] Parliamentary Assembly’s ongoing work to foster democracy through free and fair elections,” said Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, Florida Democrat and co-chairman of the congressional Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Co-chairman Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrat, and Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, the senior Republican on the panel, joined Mr. Hastings in criticizing Russia’s decision to limit European observers to 400, half the number permitted to monitor the 2004 presidential election.

Some Western analysts warn Russian President Vladimir Putin, who cannot seek a third term, will manipulate the election to ensure victory for his handpicked successor, First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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