The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan views with deep concern the “Designated Secrets Bill” now under consideration by the Japanese Diet.
In particular, we are alarmed by the text of the bill, as well as associated statements made by some ruling party lawmakers, relating to the potential targeting of journalists for prosecution and imprisonment.
It is at the very heart of investigative journalism in open societies to uncover secrets and to inform the people about the activities of government. Such journalism is not a crime, but rather a crucial part of the checks-and-balances that go hand-in-hand with democracy.
The current text of the bill seems to suggest that freedom of the press is no longer a constitutional right, but merely something for which government officials “must show sufficient consideration.”
Moreover, the “Designated Secrets Bill” specifically warns journalists that they must not engage in “inappropriate methods” in conducting investigations of government policy. This appears to be a direct threat aimed at the media profession and is unacceptably open to wide interpretations in individual cases. Such vague language could be, in effect, a license for government officials to prosecute journalists almost as they please.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan includes members who are both citizens of Japan and those who are not. But our venerable organization, established in 1945, has always viewed freedom of the press and free exchange of information as the crucial means by which to maintain and increase friendly relations and sympathetic understanding between Japan and other countries.
In that context, we urge the Diet to either reject the “Designated Secrets Bill” in total, or else to redraft it so substantially that it ceases to pose a threat to both journalism and to the democratic future of the Japanese nation.
President, Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan
November 11, 2013
11 thoughts on “Japan’s “Designated Secrets Bill” Threatens Freedom of The Press; FCCJ protests”
I worry that Japan is positioning its nation brand in a security-first, secrets-first framework. The FCCJ was right to issue this protest. We all need to be aware of the negative consequences of such an ill-defined, open-ended state secrets law. As is often said, “sunshine is the best disinfectant.” If you hide the sun (enlightenment), then bad things will continue to happen without our knowledge. Journalists at their best promote the truth and enlighten us to what’s really going on. We cannot have them cowering before the government.
I worry as well.
I am really happy to see the FCCJ issue this statement. The potential applications of this bill really frighten me, and even more disconcerting are the deaf ear lawmakers are turning to all the protest from the media and many legal experts. The fact lawmakers can arbitrarily extend the period of non-disclosure every 5 years is preposterous.
The other week the Asahi Shinbun posted a letter in its editorial section from a man who was an elementary student during the war. He recalled receiving an assignment at school to draw a picture of the landscapes in his local community. His town was on coast and had a nice harbor, so he said he decided to climb a bluff and draw a view of the entire harbor with the naval ships docked. He entered an area he did not realize was labeled “Off Limits”, and after drawing for a while he was suddenly approached by what appeared to be members of the Kenpei. They shouted at him, saying that what he was doing was akin to spying, and demanded to know why he had entered an area that was supposedly “Off Limits”. He merely stated that he was doing his homework, so the Kenpei took him to his school to check with his teacher and verify that he was really doing his homework. The teacher denied everything, claiming that he had never given such an assignment.
The elderly gentleman who wrote this letter described how the new secrets law instantly conjured up images of this experience, and frightened him to the core. He expressed his fears that this law will only move the nation backwards, transforming it into a state no different than the one they thought had been abandoned after the war. It was a powerful remonstration that I hope some people upstairs heard.
That is a terrifying story but one worth heeding. Do you know when it was published?
I believe sometime in late October or early this month. I’ll check and let you know.
Thanks! 治安維持法 was one of the laws used to stifle the press.
I was able to track down the date this letter was published. It was one of the letters included in the Asahi Shinbun’s editorial section “声：語りつぐ戦争” in the morning edition put out on October 22. The actual version is far more harrowing than the description I wrote from memory. Along the elderly gentleman made no mention of it, it seems the authorities applied the 治安維持法 when they apprehended him. Would you like a copy of the news clipping?
Yes, that would be great. And thank you.
I have the scanned copy made. Should I send it to the contact address listed here on the website?
Yes, thank you again for taking the time.
No problem. I sent it to the contact address for this site last night.