media reported March 20 that the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ)-led government
abandoned presenting a Bill on Secrecy Protection (provisional name) to the
Diet, the worst-ever law that deprives the right of people to know and denies
freedom of the press. The government has only postponed the date of submission because
it faces difficulties in the controversy to raise the consumption tax rate. The
DPJ administration does not renounce the plan. Keep a close eye on developments.
WITHDREW BILL FOR CONVENIENCE, NOT ABANDONED
draft bill is to enact a law to tighten penalty on public workers if they leak
classified information on diplomacy and public order. Media reports say that Chief
Cabinet Secretary Fujimura Osamu told, quoting, that 'considering various
opinions on the right of people to know and freedom of the press, we should be
cautious over the issue'.
reports added a comment of a DPJ leader, who told that the Diet had so many agenda
to debate that it could not touch on the bill in question, even if it was raised
to the Diet.
from the process of drafting the bill, it is right to say that the DPJ withdrew
it because the issue to hike the consumption tax rate would take time and need tactics
to manage the session.
state power has maintained a policy to legislate for protection of delicate
information since the days of Nakasone government in the 1980s, when the Espionage
Prevention Act was refuted by the popular movements. The state is tenacious.
Therefore, it is crucial to remind that the Noda government did not abandon the
policy on the ground to contemplate the right of people to know and freedom of
media coverage. It has not yet decided to give up legislation.
can be Secret
Bill on Secrecy Protection covers three areas: (1) national security, including
the defense, (2) diplomacy and (3) maintenance of public safety and order. It contains
a rule that relevant ministers are entitled to designate as 'special secret' crucial
information that involves the very existence of nation.
government would be allowed to let such information be classified as people are
eager to know; on military affairs like Futenma Air Base and overseas
deployment of the Self Defense Forces, the TPP agreement which may impact on
people's life, diplomatic issues, including a policy to eliminate nuclear
weapons, and nuclear safety and radiation disaster provoked by the accident at
the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant.
November two years ago the then-chief cabinet secretary Sengoku Yoshito told in
the Budget Committee of the House of Representatives, referring to a release of
video film on the collision between a Chinese fishing boat and the Japan Coast
Guard's vessels, that 'penalty on an abuse of confidentiality is slight in the current
National Public Servant Law. It is insufficient in deterrence effect. An
earlier review should be made on the duty of confidentiality in the legislation'.
on the advice, a panel, called Council of Intellectuals to Examine Duty of Confidentiality
in Legislation, was established, which presented last August a report to the
government. Under the Noda administration a panel led by Chief Cabinet
Secretary Fujimura, the Council to Study Laws on Information Protection, has been
set up to draft the bill.
to the panel's report, the would-be law will tighten penal regulations on
public servants in charge of sensitive information, if they deliberately leak
it. The law could work as deterrence. The report proposes to 'appropriately
evaluate' officials in charge of special secrets, focusing on their personal
life, visits to foreign countries and criminal records, and advises to
government-entrusted entities, such as independent administrative institutions,
and even private companies, could be put under surveillance. In other words, a
person who might have ties with a person in charge of special secrets may be
investigated. Boundary grows indefinitely.
Pledge - Information Disclosure
DPJ government has submitted a bill to revise Information Disclosure Act to specify
the right of people to know. The Manifesto pledges easier access to information.
But the bill has been shelved. The first job is to approve a law on information