Sunteți pe pagina 1din 4

Japan's post-Fukushima 'secrecy' clampdown

Saul Takahashi for The Ecologist - 11th December 2013 Japan's secrecy law, just passed by parliament, gives the government carte blanche to designate state secrets - and restrict information about anything it likes. aul Takahashi hears the sound of jackboots on the march ... The possible designations of particular information as secret' are essentially infinite. apan's ne! secrecy la! is yet another disturbing symptom of the country's rising militarism" broadening the go#ernment's po!er to classify state secrets amidst increased belligerence in the region. $s if it e#er needed repeating" the people of apan !ere once again treated to a reminder of ho! secreti#e and arbitrary their go#ernment can be during the nuclear disaster in %ukushima 2011. &o#ernment foot'dragging and reluctance to di#ulge information meant that people remained e(posed to high doses of radiation for o#er a month after the meltdo!n !ith potentially gra#e health conse)uences. *o!" !hat is easily the most right !ing go#ernment apan has seen in decades has forced through parliament a bill to classify +special secrets+ that !ould essentially gi#e the e(ecuti#e carte blanche to !ithhold information on a massi#e scale" not seen since the period of militarism directly leading up to" and during" ,orld ,ar 2. The la!" kno!n as the Designated Secrets -ill" !as hurriedly rammed through the more po!erful lo!er house on 2. *o#ember" and then passed through the upper house in e)ually speedy fashion on . December. /t gi#es unrestricted po!er to the e(ecuti#e to designate a broad range of information as national secrets. There are no effecti#e checks or balances" no truly meaningful opportunity for the in#ol#ement of any independent body" and no effecti#e !ay to ensure that the e(ecuti#e is not abusing its po!er. 0nly the barest of outlines of information regarding !hat sort of information has e#en been designated as secret !ill be disclosed to the public. The bill !ould #iolate the right of people's right to access information" se#erely punish !histleblo!ers" and ha#e a chilling effect on 1ournalism" ci#il society organi2ations" and the actions of concerned citi2ens. The go#ernment has repeated the mantra that the bill is necessary because apan is a !heaven for spies! due to a lack of espionage and state secrets legal infrastructure. They !ould ha#e the people belie#e that the go#ernment lacks the po!er to keep information confidential" and that Tokyo is full of foreign agents !ho freely collect sensiti#e secrets. *othing could be further from the truth ' the go#ernment already designates a !ide range of information as confidential ' 310"000 pieces of information ha#e been designated so since a s!eeping go#ernment policy !as implemented on this in 2004. /n addition" in response to a )uestion in parliament" 5rime 6inister $be admitted that the go#ernment !as a!are of fi#e cases of !leaks of important information by civil servants! o#er the past fifteen years. %i#e cases o#er fifteen years can hardly be described as a !heaven!. The truth" as e#en the go#ernment admits" is that this bill is intrinsically connected !ith another bill adopted by parliament in *o#ember" establishing a *ational Security 7ouncil much along the lines of the 8S body by the same name. /ndeed" the Secrets bill specifically pro#ides for the sharing of designated secrets !ith foreign go#ernments" !ho are apparently more trust!orthy than apan's o!n people. Constitutional infringement There are four categories of information listed in the bill that could potentially )ualify for designation as a secret ' defense" diplomacy" !designated dangerous activities! " and pre#ention of terrorism ' but they are !orded in an e(tremely broad manner.

Seemingly any kind of information related to defense could )ualify" as !ell as any !important security related information! in the area of foreign relations" any information related to official efforts in the area of counter terrorism" and any information related to !activities potentially harmful to national security! . The possible designations of particular information as secret' are essentially infinite9 though there is a principled ma(imum period of .0 years :already e(tremely long; stipulated in the amended bill" there are also categories of information ' almost e)ually s!eeping ' !hich it is possible to designate secret !ith no time limit. The role en#isioned for parliament is e(tremely limited" to the e(tent that it !ould most probably be meaningless. The bill does state that" in applying the la!" the go#ernment should !fully take into account! 1ournalistic reporting !aimed at ensuring the peoples' right to access information! . These pro#isions are !vague! to say the least" and appear to grant the go#ernment lee!ay to decide !hich reporting is !aimed at ensuring! this right. -ut punishments for the re#ealing of secrets are se#ere ' up to ten years imprisonment for ci#il ser#ants or persons subcontractors dealing !ith secrets. 5ersons !ho obtain secrets through illegal means are also sub1ect to up to ten years imprisonment" and persons !ho !incite! the re#ealing of secrets are sub1ect to up to fi#e years imprisonment. 5ersons !ho re#eal secrets through negligence can also be sub1ect to imprisonment" as are persons !ho !incite! or conspire to di#ulge secrets. /t is !orth pointing out that the right to access information is not only a #ital element of the right to freedom of e(pression" but also a fundamental human right guaranteed by the apanese constitution. $rticle 21 states that !freedom of ... speech, press, and all other forms of e"pression are guaranteed! and" in accordance !ith de#elopments in international la!" this article has been interpreted by the apanese courts to include the right to access information. The same article also states that the go#ernment must !refrain from violating fundamental human rights in an unreasonable manner! in applying the la!" begging the )uestion as to !hat !unreasonable! means in this ne! en#ironment. <#en !orse" $rticle 21 goes on to say that reporting by the media !ill not be punished !insofar as those activities are aimed solely at ensuring the public interest and are not based on illegal or clearly unreasonable methods! . There is no definition of !hat the !public interest! means in this conte(t" and 1ust ho! the go#ernment !ill ascertain this. The go#ernment has e#en stated that some bloggers and other social media acti#ists may not fall under the definition of !media! in this article" indicating that e#en the abo#e pathetic safeguards !ould not apply. $s one could imagine" public outcry regarding the bill has been intense !ith near'daily demonstrations and criticism from human rights organi2ations" including the apanese -ar $ssociation" former prominent conser#ati#e 65s" academic societies" 1ournalist societies" and prefectural and local councils. 8nusually for a country that is used to being under the radar of international scrutiny" the bill !as also the target of harsh criticism from human rights actors in the 8nited *ations. The 8* =uman >ights 7ouncil Special >apporteur on %reedom of <(pression together !ith the Special >apporteur on the >ight to =ealth issued a statement critici2ing the s!eeping pro#isions of the bill" and the lack of protection for !histle blo!ers. The 8* =igh 7ommissioner for =uman >ights also e(pressed similar concerns. &o#ernment responses to these concerns ha#e been a shining e(ample of e#asion" #agueness" and a condescending 'shut up and trust us' mentality ' indeed" the fact that the go#ernment opened the bill to public comment for only t!o

!eeks" as opposed to the normal practice of a full month" sho!s the contempt in !hich it holds #ie!s it does not agree !ith. 0ne *&0 filed a re)uest for the minutes of the meetings of a go#ernment panel that had discussed the pro#isions of the bill ' minutes that date back to 200?. /n an insult to the notion of go#ernment accountability" the documents the *&0 !as pro#ided !ith !ere almost completely redacted" i.e. blacked out. A new chilling effect /n one telling response to the ob#ious )uestion of !hat !ould entail a !clearly unreasonable method! of reporting" 6inister 6asako 6ori" the female 7abinet member charged by 5rime 6inister $be to steer the bill through parliament seemingly for no reason other than placing a !oman in front of the cameras !ould gi#e the bill a soft' image" ga#e the e(ample of the infamous *ishiyama case of 14@2. Takichi *ishiyama" a former 1ournalist for #ainichi himbun" a ma1or apanese broadsheet" !as arrested for obtaining information from a apanese %oreign 6inistry secretary :!ith !hom" it later came to light" he had been ha#ing an affair; regarding a secret agreement bet!een apan and the 8S surrounding the return of 0kina!a to apanese so#ereignty. Though the agreement that had been made public by the t!o go#ernments had stated that certain e(penses totaling 8SA 3 million !ould be paid by the 8S" this !as an outright lie" and the secret agreement specified that the costs !ould be footed by the apanese. %or his efforts in e(posing go#ernment deception of the people" *ishiyama !as con#icted in 14@? of inciting a ci#il ser#ant to re#eal confidential information. 30 years later" declassified 8S go#ernment documents confirmed *ishiyama's allegations ' and yet his name is used by the go#ernment as a good e(ample of 'bad' 1ournalism. Tellingly" 6ori has declared that sub1ects of intense public debate" such as the Trans'5acific 5artnership :T55; economic agreement currently being negotiated behind closed doors !ith the 8nited States and other countries" could be designated as secrets. $nd go#ernment reassurances ha#e been unable to )uell fears that !ith such broad pro#isions in the bill" important information regarding nuclear safety could be designated as secret as !ell. 5erhaps most important in all of this is the chilling effect that the la! !ould ha#e on people accessing or publishing any sort of information. ,ith the opa)ue phrasing of the la! persons !ill ha#e no idea as to !hether information they are accessing or publishing is in fact a designated secret. The apanese -ar $ssociation notes that" under the pro#isions of the bill" it is entirely plausible that people could be accused and tried !ithout them or their la!yer being told e(actly !hat information they are accused of ha#ing re#ealed. 8nsurprisingly" go#ernment assurances that persons !ho accidentally come across or re#eal secrets !ould not be punished are not con#incing ' and logic indicates that" e#en if they ended up not being punished" such persons !ould be sub1ect to in#estigation. /n the early hours of B December" the go#ernment announced in response to mounting pressure that it !ould create t!o 'independent' bodies to o#ersee implementation of the la! and ensure that there !as no abuse. -ut of these t!o bodies" only one is truly independent ' a panel of legal e(perts !hich !ill ad#ise the 56 in creating guidelines regarding the designation of secrets" and !hich !ill recei#e an annual report on implementation of the la!. /t also appears that the 56 !ill only pro#ide this panel !ith a simple outline stating the number of pieces of information that had been designated secret by category.

-eyond that" there is no clarity as to ho! this panel !ould operate" and ho! much po!er it !ould actually ha#e. /t !ould be child's play for the go#ernment to appoint a panel of go#ernment cronies to rubber stamp a one page note. 7alling the other body to be created !independent! is an insult to one's intelligence. The !oversight committee for information retention! !ill monitor application of the la! and ensure that there is no abuse" and is clearly the more po!erful body of the t!o. =o!e#er" it !ill be made up of undersecretaries :the highest ranking ci#il ser#ants; from the %oreign and Defence 6inistries ' the t!o ministries that !ill undoubtedly be designating the largest number of secrets. 8nsurprisingly" no one in apan e(pects any kind of serious o#ersight from this body. 6any opposed to the bill ha#e pointed out strikingly similar language in legislation from darker times" in particular the infamous *ational Defence and 5ublic Security $ct of 1431" !hich !as used by the go#ernment to 1ail opponents of the !ar effort. The apanese e(perience from those days is that go#ernment secrets lead to more go#ernment secrets" and then to !ar. To use a phrase the generation that remembers the 1430s often uses to describe the creeping nature of militarism ' the 1ackboots come closer and closer.
aul Takahashi is a Japanese human rights lawyer and activist who started his career with $mnesty %nternational in Tokyo. &e received his ''# from Esse" (niversity, and is currently working in )ccupied *alestine. Takahashi is the editor of &uman +ights, &uman ecurity and tate ecurity, the %ntersection, which will be published by *raeger ecurity %nternational in -./0.

Questions (Answer these in writing Due

onday! Fe"ruary #$%

1; The second paragraph of the article refers to Cgo#ernment foot'dragging and reluctance to di#ulge informationD during the %ukushima meltdo!n. Does the author seem to feel that the go#ernment !as acting in the publicEs best interestsF <(plain. 2; ,hat are the four categories of information that are to be determined as CsecretD according to this ne! billF ,hen the author states Cthey are !orded in a "road manner"D !hat can be inferred about ho! this la! might be usedF =o! !ould the situation be different if the categories !ere defined specifically rather than broadlyF 3; $ccording to the author" in !hat !ay might this la! be both a #iolation of human rights and of the rights ensured by the apanese constitutionF =o! is 1ournalism affected by this la!F =o! might !histleblo!ers such as <d!ard Sno!den" or freedom'of'information hackti#ists" such as ulian $ssange" be penali2edF 3; <(plain this )uoteG Cthe fact that the go#ernment opened the bill to public comment for only t!o !eeks" as opposed to the normal practice of a full month" shows the contempt in which it holds &iews it does not agree with.D B; >efer to the )uoteG CThe apanese -ar $ssociation notes that" under the pro#isions of the bill" it is entirely plausible that people could be accused and tried !ithout them or their la!yer being told e(actly !hat information they are accused of ha#ing re#ealed. 8nsurprisingly" go#ernment assurances that persons !ho accidentally come across or re#eal secrets !ould not be punished are not con#incing ' and logic indicates that" e#en if they ended up not being punished" such persons !ould be sub1ect to in#estigation.D <(plain this in your o!n !ords. .; ,hat is CThe *ational Defence and 5ublic Security $ct of 1431.D ,hy is this ne! bill being compared to itF @; ,hen a go#ernment e(ercises absolute control o#er the free access of information !ithin a society" can that society truly be called free' <#en if people did ha#e free access to information" do you think that !ould make any difference" or are the masses already too distracted by entertainment" sports" and other e#eryday banalities" like the society portrayed in C=arrison -ergeronFD /f the general public had the ability to reali2e the e(tent of the in1ustices per#ading their society" !ould they want to notice them" or !ould it be easier to ignore them and carry on !ith daily lifeF <(plain your reasoning !ith e(amples.