State se­crecy law stirs fear of free­dom lim­its

Crit­ics say move would fur­ther limit in­for­ma­tion

The Washington Times Daily - - World - BY MARI YA­M­AGUCHI

TOKYO | Ja­pan’s more pow­er­ful lower house of Par­lia­ment ap­proved a state se­crecy bill late Tues­day that would im­pose stiff penal­ties on bu­reau­crats who leak se­crets and jour­nal­ists who seek them, de­spite crit­i­cism the govern­ment is mak­ing a heavy-handed ef­fort to hide what it’s do­ing and sup­press press free­dom.

The pub­lic is con­cerned be­cause the govern­ment won’t say ex­actly what be­comes se­cret. Crit­ics say the law could al­low the govern­ment to with­hold more in­for­ma­tion and un­der­mine democ­racy.

The bill was ap­proved af­ter hours of de­lay due to protests by op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers. The rul­ing bloc and its sup­port­ers hope the weaker up­per house will pass the leg­is­la­tion next month.

The rul­ing party says the law is needed to en­cour­age the U.S. and other al­lies to share na­tional se­cu­rity in­for­ma­tion with Ja­pan. With the cre­ation of a U.S.-style Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil in his of­fice, it is part of Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe’s ef­forts to strengthen Ja­pan’s role in global se­cu­rity and create a more au­thor­i­tar­ian govern­ment at home.

“This law is de­signed to pro­tect the safety of the peo­ple,” Mr. Abe said, promis­ing to re­lieve cit­i­zens’ con­cerns through fur­ther par­lia­men­tary de­bate.

The bill al­lows heads of min­istries and agen­cies to clas­sify 23 vaguely worded types of in­for­ma­tion re­lated to de­fense, di­plo­macy, coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence and coun­tert­er­ror­ism, al­most in­def­i­nitely.

Crit­ics say it might sway au­thor­i­ties to with­hold more in­for­ma­tion about nu­clear power plants, ar­gu­ing they could be­come ter­ror­ist tar­gets. They also warn that of­fi­cials may refuse to dis­close key el­e­ments of free trade talks to pro­tect con­ces­sions that would make Tokyo or a part­ner look bad.

The move is wel­comed by the U.S., which wants a stronger Ja­pan to counter China’s mil­i­tary rise, but it raises fears in Ja­pan that the coun­try could be edg­ing back to­ward its mil­i­taris­tic past, when au­thor­i­ties se­verely re­strained free speech.

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