Continuous protest has been promised by writers, academics and journalists against the state secrets protection bill, even as the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) pushed the legislation through the Lower House on Tuesday. Critics say that this control of the legislative process and the legislation itself is a dangerous step backward for Japan. The secrecy bill has been criticized widely for its vague wording that could lead to arbitrary designations of information as “secret” and scare off journalists and whistle-blowers.
“The citizens’ voices that the bill is dangerous will not end today,” Kenzaburo Oe, winner of the 1994 Nobel Prize in Literature, said in a news conference at the Diet on Nov. 26. “Our experience of the March 2011 (Fukushima) nuclear accident will fuel the movement against the state secrets protection bill,” Oe said. “As a result, the movement will have tremendous power.”
Nearby, at Tokyo’s Meiji University, around 250 people joined a protest rally organized by journalists. Media organizations have voiced their stand against the bill, saying that it will hamper their news gathering activities. “The bill will serve as a basis to regulate the media and investigate the people. It is clearly a law to control public order,” said Shigetada Kishii, special senior staff writer of the Mainichi Newspapers.
Furthermore, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations also roundly criticized the LDP – the country’s ruling bloc – for its actions in the Lower House. “Since the bill could render popular sovereignty a mere shell, the ruling coalition disrespected the will of the people by forcing it through the chamber,” according to the statement released by the organization. “The action goes against the basic principle of popular sovereignty in a double sense.”
The legislation’s apparent aim is to stop the leaks that have plagued Japan’s government bureaucracy, a reason why top ally the United States has been reluctant to share information with Tokyo. Under the proposals, any information related to defense, diplomacy, counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism can all be classified as a state secret, at the behest of those in power. Critics continue to argue that the bill could mean more information being kept from the public, rather than the effective management of state information it purports to aim for.