Japan Secrets Proposal Criticized as Too Sweeping

30 September 2013

The Japanese government may modify a proposal to protect state secrets, according to media reports, but the changes appear unlikely to mollify criticis who say the bill goes too far.

The Prime Minister Shinzo Abe administration plans to insert language in the bill to guarantee freedom of the press and people’s right to know, according to a Japan Times editorial and Asahi Shimbun.

Commenting on the possible addition to the bill, Asahi Shimbun said that “simply incorporating these concepts into the bill doesn’t ensure that these rights will be actually safeguarded.” The editorial says, “The proposed bill is riddled with problems.”

The Japan Times editorial also remained unimpressed, stating, “It is deplorable that the Abe administration appears to be making light of people’s right to know.” It criticized as inadequate the 15-day public comment period held from Sept. 3 to Sept. 17.

Critics say the administration bill would give officials too much discretion over what information will be designated as secrets, with no control mechanism.

The state secrets protection bill is expected to be considered by the Diet at a session to convene on Oct. 15.

According to the outline of the bill, information in the four areas of defense, diplomacy, counterintelligence and counterterrorism would be subject to designation as “special secrets” meriting extra protection.

“There’s been no thought given to how secrets will be declassified, or what mechanisms will prevent secrets from spreading more than necessary,” according to Yukiko Miki, president of non-profit organization Access-Info Clearinghouse Japan, which promotes freedom of information and the protection of personal information, quoted in The Mainichi.

The bill includes a punishment of a maximum of 10 years in prison for civil servants who leak “special secrets” and to those who obtain the secrets, including reporters, through “conspiracy, instigation and agitation.”

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