Japan

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  • 9 October 2014

    Japan Wrongly Blames U.S. For Repressive Japanese Secrecy Law

    By Morton Halperin and Molly Hofsommer Halperin is Senior Advisor to the Open Society Foundations and Hofsammer is an OSF Research Assistant. Their article was published Oct. 5 in The Huffington Post. In Japan, a draconian secrecy law that will severely limit public debate on national security issues is about to go into effect. Not […]

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  • 20 August 2014

    How Serious Were Japan’s Information Leaks?

    By Lawrence Repeta The author teaches law at Meiji University and is a regular FreedomInfo.org contributor. Japan in 2013 passed an Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets and is now developing the implementing regulations. The law was recently critiqued by the United National Human Rights Committee. (See Freedominfo.org report.) Does Japan really have an information security problem? […]

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Read more news….


freedom of information: overview

Tens of thousands of information requests have been filed each year since Japan’s national information disclosure law took effect in 2001.  Although transparency advocates point to several important shortcomings in the law, there is no doubt that it is a major milestone in the nation’s development as a democratic society.  Requests filed by journalists, lawyers, activists and ordinary citizens have uncovered a wide range of information concerning public health, government expenditures, international relations and other issues of broad public interest.

Japan’s national information disclosure law provides anyone the right to demand information in the possession of national government agencies and government-owned entities.   The government is ordinarily required to respond within thirty days, a standard that is met in the overwhelming majority of cases, and to disclose all relevant records except for items that come within one or more of six categories of exempt information.  In addition, a national personal information protection law came into effect in 2005 which enables individuals to demand information concerning themselves.

LEARN MORE: in-depth overview | news archive | ngos | chronology | further reading | excerpt from Global Survey

 


NGOs and civil society

Information Clearinghouse Japan: Information Clearinghouse Japan (ICJ) was established as a successor organization to the “Citizens Movement for an Information Disclosure Law.”  The Citizens Movement, formed in 1980, was disbanded in 1999 following passage of the national information disclosure law.  ICJ was registered as a non-profit entity the same year.  The ICJ mission is to promote faithful application of local and national information disclosure systems, lobby for improvements in practice and legal reforms, support information requesters and otherwise work to promote open government and protect the people’s right to know.

National Citizen Ombudsmen Network: The National Citizen Ombudsmen Network is composed of 85 member organizations (as of February 2010) with collective presence in all 46 prefectures throughout Japan.  The Network was formed in 1994 with the mission of utilizing information disclosure laws and other tools to monitor misuse of funds and other improper activities in government.  The Network publishes annual transparency rankings for local governments and other information or interest to transparency advocates.

Citizens’ Center for Information Disclosure: The mission of the Citizens Center is to provide assistance to in requesters nationwide who seek information from national government agencies located in Tokyo.  The Center was registered as a non-profit organization in 2001.

Transparency International Japan: The Japan chapter of Transparency International conducts workshops, symposia and other activities in Japan with the objective of promoting anti-corruption efforts and also coordinates with the global TI network.

 


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News Archive

  • 6 August 2014

    UN Committee Criticizes Japanese Secrecy Law

    As the Japanese government takes steps to implement its Secrecy Law, the United Nations Human Rights Committee has voiced its reservations about the controversial law. The committee said in a July 23 report covering many topics that it “is concerned that the recently adopted Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets contains a vague […]

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  • 2 May 2014

    Japan Hints at Joining Open Government Partnership

    Japan has indicated interest in joining the Open Government Partnership, again and tentatively. The suggestion came in one paragraph of a lengthy joint statement issued after a two day visit to the United Kingdom by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. While well short of a commitment to join, the Japanese government apparently indicated “willingness to accelerate the […]

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  • 9 December 2013

    A Blow to Transparency; Japan Passes Secrecy Bill

    By Joel Rheuben Rheuben is an Australian lawyer resident in Japan. Japan’s “State Secrecy Bill”, previously reported on here, passed the upper house of Japan’s legislature on Dec. 6 to become law, even as large groups of protestors jostled with police outside. Public interest in the now-State Secrets Law had soared in recent weeks, helped […]

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  • 27 November 2013

    Diet Approves Secrecy Bill After Slight Changes

    Japan’s Diet Nov. 26 approved an internationally and domestically criticized “secrecy protection” law which imposes stiffer penalties on officials who leak information – and journalists who seek it. Premier Shinzo Abe said it was “urgent” to pass the law, which he said will allow Japan to receive national security information from the United States and […]

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  • 22 November 2013

    UN Officials Express Concern About Japan Secrecy Bill

    The United Nations Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression and on the right to health on Nov. 22 “expressed serious concern about the draft Special Secrets Bill, which establishes grounds and procedures for the classification of information held by the Japanese State,” according to a UN press release. They requested further information from the Japanese […]

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  • 6 November 2013

    The Potential Impact of Japan’s New State Secrecy Bill

    By Joel Rheuben Rheuben is an Australian lawyer resident in Japan. He was previously an associate in the Tokyo office of Herbert Smith Freehills, and is currently pursuing postgraduate studies in law at the University of Tokyo. As recently reported on this site, on 25 October the Japanese government moved to introduce to the Japanese legislature the […]

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  • 25 October 2013

    Japan Moving to Pass National Security Bill

    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 […]

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  • 7 October 2013

    Abe Promotes Secrecy, Sidelining Transparency and OGP

    By Jeff Kingston Kingston is Director of Asian Studies, Temple University Japan. Norika Fujiwara, a TV celebrity who serves as goodwill Ambassador for the Japanese Red Cross, recently caused a media sensation when she came out against the government’s proposed secrecy legislation, saying it would adversely affect citizens. Writing on her website last month, she urged […]

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  • 30 September 2013

    Japan Secrets Proposal Criticized as Too Sweeping

    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 […]

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  • 25 February 2013

    Japan Needs Dose of Cameron’s Transparency Medicine

    By Joel Rheuben Rheuben is an Australian lawyer resident in Japan. He was previously an associate in the Tokyo office of Herbert Smith Freehills, and is currently pursuing postgraduate studies in law at the University of Tokyo. As recently reported on FreedomInfo.org, UK Prime Minister David Cameron will stress commitment to transparency as a goal for this […]

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  • 9 November 2012

    Japan’s Nuclear Power Plants and Information Disclosure

    By Lawrence Repeta Repeta teaches law at Meiji University and is a regular FreedomInfo.org contributor. The following report on a seminar includes information one speaker’s proposal that the Tokyo Electric Company, which operates several major nuclear power plants, be covered by Japan’s information disclosure law. He writes: The political stalemate described in my post of […]

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  • 16 November 2011

    Japan: Greater Openness or Greater Secrecy?

    By Lawrence Repeta Repeta is a professor of law, Meiji University, Japan, and a member of the board of directors of Information Clearinghouse Japan (the leading Japanese NGO advocating and monitoring Japan’s information access laws) The Japan Times recently carried an editorial that neatly summarized some basic information policy issues facing the country’s Democratic Party of Japan […]

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  • 22 September 2011

    After Disasters, Japan FOI Reformers Wait Patiently

    By Lawrence Repeta Repeta is a professor at Meiji University, Tokyo, and a FreedomInfo.org contributing editor When the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) took power in a historic landslide election in August, 2009, there were high expectations that party leaders would adopt a series of reforms that would mark a significant change from the Japan […]

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  • 24 February 2011

    Political Infighting Endangers Japan Open Government Bill

    By Lawrence Repeta Professor, Meiji University; Board Member, Information Clearinghouse Japan  When the Democratic Party of Japan won a landslide victory in 2009 parliamentary elections, the prospects for a progressive open government law in Japan were bright. Now the DPJ government is poised to present a historic bill to the Diet that would reduce onerous […]

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  • 16 September 2010

    Japan Denies Whaling Information to Greenpeace

    The recent conviction of two anti-whaling activists in Japan was facilitated by the government’s denial of information about whale meat sales by a government-subsidized company, according to the environmental group Greenpeace. The “Tokyo Two” were convicted Sept. 6 of theft and trespass and given a one year jail sentence, suspended for three years. The Japanese […]

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  • 10 April 2009

    Signs and Smokesignals

    Asked by e-mail about the fund, Alejandra Videos, a Senior Communications Officer with the World Bank replied, We dont have anything new to report on the Facility. Well let you know if anything comes up. Another Bank official explained that no disclosure about the funds expenditures is necessary under Bank rules because it is bank-executed […]

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  • 2 February 2009

    Revelations from Prime Minister Aso on Wartime POW Labor Demonstrate Need for National Archive in Japan

    Controversy Highlights Issues of Historical Memory in Japan By Lawrence Repeta [Editor's note: This article has been reprinted with permission of the author and first appeared in The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus.] Prime Minister Aso Taro’s admission that his family company employed prisoner-of-war labor during the final months of World War II may one day […]

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  • 30 January 2008

    Foreign Ministry’s Failure to Provide Documents on 1965 Japan-Korea Normalization Pact Illegal

    By Lawrence Repeta,  Omiya Law School Tokyo, Japan — More than six decades after the end of World War II, responsibility for wartime suffering remains a highly sensitive political issue in Asia, nowhere more so than in the Japan-Korea relationship. When the two countries normalized relations in 1965, one treaty provision was intended to settle […]

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  • 28 September 2005

    International Right to Know Day 2005

    Since 2002, freedom of information advocates around the world have been working together to promote the right of access to information for all people and recognize the benefits of transparent and accountable governments. We use this day as a way to share ideas, strategies and success stories about the development of freedom of information laws […]

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  • 23 June 2005

    Documents Released Under Public Information Disclosure Law Show Government Designated Tombs of Ancient Emperors Based on Questionable Evidence

    Noboru Toike, a professor and expert on Imperial tombs, used Japan’s public information disclosure law to obtain academic studies conducted by the Imperial Household Agency regarding the discovery of at least 10 ancient tombs that the government has claimed hold the remains of emperors from the 5th through 13th centuries. The documents support the belief […]

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  • 21 December 2004

    Critics Fault ADB Draft Public Communications Policy

    The Asian Development Bank’s second draft of a new communications policy is meeting with some praise, and also with continuing criticism. Common themes included: demands for more disclosure about private sector operations, recommendations for releasing the key documents as they go to the board, and appeals for an independent appeals process. The comments are posted […]

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  • 10 December 2004

    Information Requests Reveal Destruction of Records by Administrative Agencies in Japan

    Information Clearinghouse Japan, a non-profit organization, conducted an investigation based on information requests filed under the Japanese public information disclosure law regarding the destruction of official records before that law came into effect in March 2001. The records showed that at least ten agencies significantly increased their disposal of documents during fiscal year 2000, some […]

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  • 30 September 2004

    Activists Criticize IFC Consultations; IFC Expands Consultations

    The International Finance Corporation has increased the number of consultations it will hold on proposed disclosure and safeguard policy revisions after the outreach process came under criticism by activists as inadequate and rushed. The changes were announced just before the IFC held its first consultation, in Buenos Aires Sept. 27, where attendance was about half […]

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  • 7 September 2004

    IFC Issues Broad Guidelines for New Disclosure Policy

    The International Finance Corporation, the World Bank’s private sector lending arm, has issued a "concept paper" on disclosure policy, outlining "principles," "objectives," and "frameworks," but providing few specifics and making few changes in current policies. For relevant documents click here. The generality is intentional, in part because the document is meant to provide the basis […]

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  • 16 January 2004

    JAPAN: Assembly Chief Leaks Requester’s Data

    The Asahi Shimbun (Japan) reports on a Nagano man, who applied for the release of travel data on three assembly members who had gone on business trips using public funds, and found that government officials leaked his personal data to the very people he was requesting information on. The leaked data included the man’s name, […]

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  • 1 December 2003

    IDB Adopts Amended Public Disclosure Standards

    The Inter-American Development Bank on November 26 agreed to publish the minutes of its executive board meetings, the first development bank to do so. The disclosure of minutes was the main advance made as the IDB board revised its entire disclosure policy. The IDB board decided to continue giving governments and private sector partners effective […]

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  • 12 November 2003

    JAPAN: Supreme Court Overturns Disclosure Ruling

    The Asahi Shimbun (Japan) reports that the Supreme Court has overturned a high court decision ordering the disclosure of the names and titles of private citizens wined and dined by the Osaka municipal government in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The case involves a June 1992 request by the citizens group Mihariban for records […]

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  • 11 October 2003

    “The Right to Know is Gaining around the World”

    by Thomas Blanton The International Herald Tribune, October 11, 2003, p. 6 Last month (September 23, 2003), Armenia became the 51st country in the world to guarantee its citizens the right to know what their government is up to. Armenia’s new freedom of information law is the latest outpost of the worldwide movement towards opening […]

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  • 8 September 2003

    The Birth of the Freedom of Information Act in Japan: Kanagawa 1982

    Lawrence Repeta of the Information Clearinghouse Japan board of directors reports on the 20-year experience with freedom of information in Kanagawa prefecture — the most influential early Japanese access law, passed in 1982, two decades before the national FOI law. Download the entire report in Adobe PDF format: The Birth of the Freedom of Information […]

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  • 9 May 2003

    JAPAN: Public Highway Corporation Spends Over 1 million Yen to Treat Politicians

    The Yomiuri Shimbun reports that the Japan Public Highway Corporation spent a total of 1.47 million yen to wine and dine 11 lawmakers on 17 different occasions between fiscal 2001 and 2002. Documents, obtained under the Japanese Information Disclosure law, show that the public corporation spent about 77 million yen on entertainment, including the meetings […]

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  • 22 April 2003

    JAPAN: Open Archives Scare Ministries

    The Asahi Shimbun (Japan) reports that government officials in Japan, hesitant to release files to public scrutiny, have been hoarding documents by extending their supposed “preservation periods,’ since an information disclosure law made archive records more open to the public Experts view this as a less than auspicious response by bureaucrats to the vaunted disclosure […]

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  • 11 April 2003

    World Bank Plans to Expand Publicity About Competitive Bidding Opportunities

    The World Bank is moving toward a new policy that will at least double the number of contract bidding opportunities publicized internationally, according to bank officials and business sector observers. The change will substantially increase the visibility of bank-financed contracts subject to international competitive bidding, with the aim of reducing costs. If all goes well […]

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  • 17 January 2003

    The Philippines: A Liberal Information Regime Even Without an Information Law

    Yvonne T. Chua has been the training director of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) since 1995. As journalism trainer, she has trained scores of journalists in the Philippines and abroad, including Indonesia, Cambodia and Nepal. In 1999, she won the first prize in the Jaime V. Ongpin Awards for Investigative Journalism for her […]

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  • 1 October 2002

    Disclosure or Deception? Multilateral Development Banks and Access to Information

    By Shalmali Guttal, Focus on the Global South, October 2002 Multilateral institutions such as the Asian Development Band (ADB) and the World Bank pride themselves on their information disclosure policies. Especially since the Asian economic crisis, they have held their policies up as evidence of their commitment to transparency, accountability and participation. Information disclosure policies […]

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  • 27 July 2002

    Japan – Breaking Down the Walls of Secrecy: The Story of the Citizen’s Movement for an Information Disclosure Law

    By Information Clearinghouse Japan A new national disclosure law took effect in Japan in April 2001. This essay by Information Clearinghouse Japan shows how citizen’s groups, opposition parties and freedom of information advocates had lobbied for such an act for 20 years. While local governments had passed access laws since the 1980s, efforts to enact similar […]

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  • 15 July 2002

    World’s Right to Know

    By Thomas Blanton Published in Foreign Policy, July/August 2002 During the last decade, 26 countries have enacted new legislation giving their citizens access to government information. Why? Because the concept of freedom of information is evolving from a moral indictment of secrecy to a tool for market regulation, more efficient government, and economic and technological […]

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  • 5 July 2002

    ANALYSIS: Japanese Government Information: New Rules for Access – the 2001 Information Disclosure Law, and a Comparison with the U.S. FOIA

    By Lawrence Repeta and David M. Schultz Click here to view the Information Disclosure Matrix: A Comparison of Information Disclosure in Japan and the United States INTRODUCTION After more than 20 years of lobbying by Japanese citizen’s groups, opposition political parties and others, Japan’s national Information Disclosure Law came into effect on April 1, 2001 […]

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  • 29 May 2002

    JAPAN: Official Compiles Data on Information-Seekers

    The Japan Times reports that a Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) officer compiled personal data on individuals requesting disclosure of Defense Agency information and passed it along to other agency officials. According to the Defense Agency, the MSDF officer compiled personal data on 142 individuals who requested agency-related information between April 2001, when the information disclosure […]

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navigation

in-depth overview | news archive | ngos | chronology | further reading | excerpt from Global Survey

 


links

LEGAL DOCUMENTS

Law Concerning Access to Information Held by Administrative Organs (1999)

 

Act on the Protection of Personal Information (2003)

 

ORGANIZATIONS

Information Clearinghouse Japan

 

OTHER RESOURCES

The Birth of the Freedom of Information Act in Japan: Kanagawa 1982 (posted 8 September 2003)

 

Japan - Breaking Down the Walls of Secrecy: The Story of the Citizen's Movement for an Information Disclosure Law (posted 27 July 2002)

 

Analysis: Japanese Government Information: New Rules for Access (posted 5 July 2002)

 


contributors

Lawrence Repeta
Author of numerous works on Japanese law and member of the Washington State Bar Association

 

 

Measuring Openness

Global Right to Information Rating
A country-by-country rating of laws by the Centre for Democracy and Law and Access Info.

 

Freedom House
The Freedom in the World report.

 

World Bank
Worldwide Governance Indicators

 

Transparency International, Corruption Perceptions Index
Measures perceptions of the degree of corruption.

 

Reporters Without Borders
The Press Freedom Index.