Friday, October 25, 2013

Abe's administration anti-leaks bill 

Shadows and threatening silences risk to numb the country of the rising sun...

What place for the freedom of the press and the free exchange of information in Japan?

(Verrouillage du gouvernement japonais de Shinzo Abe
qui approuve le projet de loi sur les "secrets spéciaux.") 

In the Diet, the National Security Council (NSC) proposal will be read, to be moved to Diet committee next week and fixed by Diet MPs by early November. Next project is the state secret bill, Japanese government is to sign the anti-leaks proposal.

National Security Council (NSC) decided by Abe would play a more centralised role to the Japanese government in national security and crisis management. But is its configuration compatible and validated in a parliamentary system, in a democracy, for the right of people to have free access to information? The point is for the NSC to make prompt decisions when necessary. (International crisis Senkaku-Diaoyu or ballistic missile type, pandemic crisis, terrorist attack, natural catastrophe such as Fukushima) The second objective is to make the NSC the headquarters for intelligence on national security and crisis management. Will it succeed? What is it aiming at? Who will deal with it?

"Japan’s bureaucratic and organisational culture should be kept in mind. Most officials in the NSC are expected to come from existing ministries. When Japan tried to centralise the Cabinet Office, key officials found it difficult to work independently from their "original" ministries. The NSC will face the same problems and needs its bureaucrats to be independent to be successful. The increased membership of the Cabinet Office may prevent the prompt decision-making that the bill seeks. In addition, the 2013 bill will not develop human resources for national security and crisis management. Institutions cannot work without relevant human resources. The NSC needs people who have been properly trained and understand security policy to work effectively, but Japan lacks institutions to provide this training" writes Toshiya Takahashi, ANU In "Abe and a Japanese National Security Council" (edited Oct 6th 2013)

About the anti leaks bill (also State Secret Bill)

The bill would allow government organisations to designate information as broadly defined special state secrets at their own discretion, writes the Mainichi Shimbun in his editorial: "Under the bill, Diet members, who are frequently aware of special secrets would be subject to punishment if they leaked such confidential information, which raises concerns that the legislative branch cannot sufficiently monitor the executive branch's activities. Serious questions remain about the bill in light of the Constitution, which defines the Diet as the "highest organ of state power."

But the anti-leaks bill goes well beyond what security means and many expected that the Komei Party (Buddhist) current partner of LDP in the parliament majority could or would discourage Abe's team to transform Japanese fundamental rights, as many in journalism and academia told me these last days. A reading of press reports of the Mainichi, Asahi, Daily press, Japan Times clearly describe the mood of the media in Japan since the nationalist self portrayed prime minister came to power. One example is that diplomatic documents held by the Japanese Foreign Ministry as well as police information among other information would be designated as state secrets. How can journalists work out and the public can have the right to know?

"It goes without saying that sufficient consideration should be given to people's right to know and the freedom of the press in light of the Constitution. However, there is a high possibility that a strict penal provision in the bill could discourage journalists from gathering news about state secrets," the Mainichi writes.

We at the FCCJ (Press club for Foreign Correspondents in Japan) Freedom of Press Committee voice our concerns in an editorial from our committee Chair, an article to be published in the November 2013 edition of the press club magazine (after in-depth talks within the committee and the PR specialist editing the magazine Number 1 Shimbun) with here an exclusive excerpt:

"If the Designated Secrets Bill becomes law, I wonder how many journalists and their editors will be deterred from publishing stories based upon unofficial government sources fearing, whether fully justified or not, that they may spend ten years in a Japanese prison for doing so? Beyond that, of course, is the matter of how public officials themselves might be so terrorised by the law that they would become almost entirely unwilling to respond to quiet media enquiries."

It now remains to be seen what Abe's party LDP and Komei are to do. Pessimism is rising as we hear from our sources in the Parliament that Komei party after having offered some opposition to the anti leaks bill will bow without grace to Abe's decision and vote for it. "The evidence to date suggests considerable cause for alarm."

Articles quoted:

Added Japanese press reports:

Mainichi shimbun "Editorial: Diet should reveal the dangerous nature of state secrets bill"