Japan Moving to Pass National Security Bill

25 October 2013

The Japanese Cabinet has approved a controversial bill to protect state secrets.

The current developments are described in a Reuters article by Linda Sieg and Kiyoshi Takenaka and in Japan Times by Ayako Mie. The bill is expected to pass later this year.

A broad perspective is provided an analysis article by Lawrence Repeta, who teaches law at Meiji University and is a regular FreedomInfo.org contributor.

Reuters reports:

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government is planning a state secrets act that critics say could curtail public access to information on a wide range of issues, including tensions with China and the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

The Japan Times says:

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet is set to approve a controversial bill Friday to protect state secrets that stops short of fully guaranteeing the public’s right to know and freedom of the press.

Critics fear the bill, which would next go to the Diet, gives the government too much power to control access to information.

The bill imposes heavier punishments on leakers of classified information in an attempt to tighten security and thereby satisfy the U.S. and its allies concerned about what they see as destabilizing factors in Asia.

Kyodo News covers slight changes made to the bill and opposition proposals.

Repeta describes the bill’s main features this way:

Compared to the 2001 law, the proposed rules would dramatically extend the range of state secrets in two ways. First, the categories of information subject to secrecy designation would be expanded. The 2001 Law empowers the Minister of Defense to designate information he determines to be “especially necessary to be made secret for Japan’s defense.” It covers no other information. The proposed bill would apply to four categories of information, including defense, diplomacy, “designated dangerous activities,” and prevention of terrorism.

Second, the list of government offices empowered to designate information secret would be expanded beyond the Defense Ministry to include every Cabinet Ministry and major agency of the government.4 Moreover, in order to better enforce the new regime, the maximum penalty for violation of the law would be increased from five years imprisonment under the 2001 Law to ten years under the proposed law.

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