A lot of people, especially ones from the media, are concerned over the state secrets act that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing for approval. Once passed, information will be classified according to its gravity of effect on national security. But it also follows that anyone leaking and trying to obtain the information will be indicted, raising fears of suppression of press freedom and the right to freedom of information.
The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), together with the New Komeito Party, is pushing for the bill that will withhold information to the public believed to be crucial for national security. The ruling bloc is also planning to establish an NSA-inspired National Security Council, which would be entrusted with information classified as follows: defense, diplomacy, counter-terrorism, and counter-espionage. According to Law Professor Lawrence Repeta at the Meiji University, “There is a demand by the established political forces for greater control over the people.” He also believes that “this fits with the notion that the state should have broad authority to act in secret.”
Based on the bill, classified information on national security would be designated by top ministry officials for five years but may be renewed for another five years and possibly, eventually, for an indefinite period of time. “Basically, this bill raises the possibility that the kind of information about which the public should be informed is kept secret eternally,” said Tadaaki Muto, a lawyer and task force member assigned to review the bill at the Japan Federation of Bar Associations.
The bill, expected to be approved by Friday, also states tougher sanctions on those who will be caught violating the act. Leak of classified information by individuals who have access to it will take 10 years of imprisonment. As for the private sector, the media included, leaking classified information would keep the accused imprisoned for up to five years if proven that “grossly inappropriate” means were taken to obtain the information. According to Repeta, “It seems very clear that the law would have a chilling effect on journalism in Japan.”
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