The radio channel Nippon Cultural Broadcasting have announced plans to air an audio recording of a hanging that took place in Japan in 1955.
With the lay judge system due to come into effect next year, the Justice Ministry repeatedly skirting around the issue of capital punishment and four executions having taken place in the last few days, the radio station came to the decision to broadcast this recording in order to “inform the public about the truth of capital punishment.”
The broadcast will take place on May 6 at 10am throughout the Kanto area. The recording contains conversations between the prison guards and the inmate, the inmate being offered a cigarette and, perhaps most controversially, the sound of the standing board giving way and the creaking of the rope can all be heard. Although all names and anything identifying the people in the recording have been edited out, according to the Asahi Shimbun, the execution was picked up by the newspapers straight after it happened and the television stations broadcasted information on this in the 1990s.
The radio station have affirmed that the decision to broadcast this is solely for informing the public in a factual and indifferent manner and not to criticize or praise the morals of capital punishment. “We would like to leave that up to our listeners,” said the Nippon Cultural Broadcasting public representative.
The Asahi Shimbun gave two arguments for and against the broadcasting of this recording:
An emeritus criminology professor for Meiji University, Sachihito Kikuta, says “Although you can hear the condemned’s voice and everything is calm, it is easy to choose a death-row inmate who is very quiet, giving the impression that executions are peaceful. In reality, executions are a lot more brutal and I do not think this recording is really neutral. I cannot be in agreement with making this kind of recording public.
Tachinari Mori, a film-maker and the author of the book “Execution” published earlier this year says, “without having any information on what executions are like, the lay judge system is due to come into effect soon. If the Ministry of Justice keeps trying to be so secretive about capital punishment, then it is up to the media to expose the truth. It is very significant to firstly spread the word about this issue.
Leaving the issue of executions aside, the debate on whether this should be broadcast does seem to lean towards the latter argument.The news about the eminent broadcast has already brought media attention to capital punishment and with so little known about the issue, leading the public’s eyes to this topic can be a catalyst for debate. Hopefully this recording will bring more public debates on the morals of capital punishment—if the jury system was designed to make citizens more accountable for the process of justice and raise public awareness about the penal system, it appears that it is already working.
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