Japan’s State Secrets Laws Empowers The Elite and Muzzles The Press: FOP RIP 12/10/2014

Originally published in December 2014

Missing :  Japan’s Freedom of The Press—once ranked number 22 in the world, she has been in ill-health and mistreated since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe became the new sheriff of Japan in 2012. Last seen at midnight on December 9th.  Government sources who would not go on the record, for fear of being sent to jail for ten years, believe that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the ruling coalition may have played a role in the kidnapping of this freedom but were unable to confirm. 

December 14 is Election Day in Japan. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party is expected to maintain power, but what many have overlooked amid the election news is December 10 – the day that a controversial state secrets law goes into full effect

The law, passed last year, symbolically represents Japan’s aspiration to return to international prominence – but could prove ominous for journalists and the public. It allows Japan’s 19 government ministries to designate certain information as state secrets. The state secret classification lasts five years, a period that can be extended to 60 years. Any civil servant that shares the classified secrets and any journalist that works with the leaked information could face up to 10 years of imprisonment. In simple terms, a government employee that leaks a classified secret can receive up to ten years in jail. A reporter or citizen that urges the official to release information or works with the person to do so can be sent to jail for up to five years. In other words, a reporter who aggressively asks about matters deemed secret can go to jail for the questions alone.

“I see this… as [Abe] sending a message: the Japanese state is powerful and it has all these security interests in mind,” said Darren Zook, a political science professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

Abe’s conservative government has justified the state secrets law as necessary for the creation of an agency in Japan similar to the U.S. National Security Council. The law seeks to offset reluctance among Japanese government offices for fear of leaks.
The law also seeks to combat U.S. defense information leaks out of Japan, which Abe hopes to ensure by showing that he is in charge.

The law’s critics, including the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, have voiced their concerns about the policy allowing government overreach and impeding the main tenet of a liberal democracy – where a free and open press serves as a check on government power. The law’s ambiguity and breadth in Japan also means there is more opportunity for abuse, said Koichi Nakano, political science professor at Sophia University in Tokyo.

Recent revelations about the lack of regulation at the Fukushima nuclear plant is an example of stories that may not have been uncovered if the law was in place. In the future, other news stories about nuclear power and other environmental concerns – relevant to the public’s interest – could also be classified, Nakano added.

Although most coverage of the state secrets law has revolved around its obvious detriment to press freedom, the damage to journalism within Japan may be minimal. Despite a guarantee of press freedom in its constitution, Japan’s passive cultural environment has never provided fertile grounds for investigative journalism to thrive, Zook said.

The Japanese government is looking for a mascot for its oppressive State Secrets Act. This monsters with eyes to monitor the media and hands to arrest them may be ideal--no ears to listen to reason and no mouth to speak secrets--it can only attack.
The Japanese government is looking for a mascot for its oppressive State Secrets Act. This monsters with eyes to monitor the media and hands to arrest them may be ideal–no ears to listen to reason and no mouth to speak secrets–it can only attack.

 

What’s more concerning is that Japan’s state secrets law is just one in a series of increased measures that restrict within liberal democracies in the name of security. Canada, New Zealand and Australia have all passed similar laws, said Bob Dietz, the Asia program coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists. Many of these state secret policies were implemented as a knee-jerk reaction to events such as WikiLeaks and Snowden’s NSA files, and rising uncertainty over terrorist threats. Yet the fast and hasty implementation of such laws across the globe means more room for institutional corruption and abuse.

“You can see tendency of more protection of government at the expense of journalists’ rights and the public’s rights,” Dietz said.

Reporters Without Borders, a watch-dog for freedom of information and promoter of investigative journalism internationally, in their World Press Freedom Index for 2014 dropped Japan to number 59 on its list, below countries like Serbia and Chile. This marks a precipitous fall; Japan was ranked as high as 22 in 2012. The United Nations and other international observers are becoming increasingly concerned about the direction of media freedom here.

In the land of the rising sun, investigative journalism and the public right to know has been quietly plunged into darkness. Even lighting a single candle in that darkness may have severe unforeseeable repercussions.

Lisa Du is a freelance journalist and a Master of International Affairs student at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. She has previously written for Newsday, Business Insider and The Charlotte Observer.

Jake Adelstein contributed to this article. 

14 thoughts on “Japan’s State Secrets Laws Empowers The Elite and Muzzles The Press: FOP RIP 12/10/2014”

  1. F*ck You. Your criminal actions are going to cost you a lot of time and money. This isn’t a threat. It’s a promise. Who is going to protect you? The CIA? The Yakuza? The Tokyo police? You are a criminal. You are corrupt. You are going to pay.

  2. Hey, investigative reporter, here’s something to investigate:

    –Abe’s grandpappy was a Class A War Asshole. Why did the US set him free? Ask your CIA “sources”

    –Abe studied at USC’s school of Public Policy. I hear that the whole thing was a farce. Shitzo was an “bochan” who couldn’t pass the SATs or speak English, but they doctored his papers in order to smuggle him into a proper US school instead of a backwater in “Beautiful Japan”. Shitzo Abe hardly ever showed up for classes at USC. The whole thing was a farce. They paid off his profs to give him good marks. They paid off other students to write his papers for him. Whenever Shitzo actually showed up in California, he hung out with other assholes on the beaches. Yet this dude gets a degree from USC? What a joke

    –then he gets “grand-fathered” into a job at Kobe Steel. The Bochan is a complete dipstick who knows nothing about business, and a total failure. So they give him a job as an executive assistant to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. From there, nobody can stop him.

    1. I don’t have to ask CIA sources—it was all part of Japan’s reverse course. Written up about Abe’s grandpa many times. I am interested in his USC days.

  3. On November 22, 2012, it was reported that Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) early morning TV show “Asazuba” accidentally displayed Abe’s photo alongside a news report about an NHK announcer’s arrest for a sex offense. Abe’s face filled viewers’ screens along with the name of NHK announcer Takeshige Morimoto, who anchors NHK’s “Ohayo Nippon” program on Saturday and Sunday. Morimoto was arrested for allegedly groping a woman on the train. Abe posted on his public Facebook page “This morning on the TBS show ‘Asazuba,’ when a newscaster reported on a story regarding the apprehension of a molester, a photo of me was shown. Images of this blunder can now be seen clearly across the Internet, Have the slander campaigns already begun!? If this were merely an accident, it would be proper for the TV station to give me a personal apology, but as yet I haven’t heard a single word.” The newscaster acknowledged that the incorrect image had been displayed, but merely stated that the photo was “unrelated” and did not refer to the politician by name. Neither Abe nor his office have received any form of apology

  4. –Shitzo couldn’t have kids. He forced his wife Akie to have “fertility treatments”, which further messed up her health. Akie-sama didn’t want kids because she doesn’t want the next o-bochama to further fuck up Japan. Nice guy, huh?

    “Of course, as the wife of a politician, I was under enormous pressure, including from his constituency,” she told Bungei Shunju.

    “Now that it has become difficult because of my age, people have stopped telling me to keep trying. But in the very early stages, I did have fertility treatment.”

    –Shitzo’s uncle was big in Mitsubishi. Who is making massive profits from Abenomics? The big trading zaibatsu like MItsubishi who take a cut on both trades: the rising costs of imports and the increasing amount of exports due to the falling yen. So, as the yen falls, and ordinary Japanese become relatively poorer, Shitzo’s family members and their pals get richer and richer. Beautiful Japan, huh

  5. Hi Lisa,

    In your quote from Bob Dietz: “What’s more concerning is that Japan’s state secrets law is just one in a series of increased measures that restrict within liberal democracies in the name of security. Canada, New Zealand and Australia have all passed similar laws…”

    Just wondering if you fact checked this statement out with your own research?

    best xol

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