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Japan’s “Designated Secrets Bill” Threatens Freedom of The Press; FCCJ protests

Bysubcultureist

Nov 11, 2013

November 11th, 2013

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan (FCCJ) today issued a protest against the pending “Designated Secrets Bill” which will virtually ensure a stranglehold on Japan’s already timid press. The FCCJ rarely makes a statement or engages in public debate but the consensus of the many passionate journalists, who include Japanese citizens, Japanese residents, as well as as foreign correspondents, was that silence now could mean losing the right to ever speak openly, without fear or favor, again.

The law’s only up side is that that Japan might  never be plagued again by people reporting  the truth about their nuclear disasters, government corruption, large-scale financial fraud in the stock market, or even the process of government policy. The only news would be what was good news for Japan Inc.

The full text of the statement is below.

Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan
1-7-1 Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Yurakucho Denki Building 20F
☎03-3211-3161
 
A Call for the Withdrawal or Major Revision of the “Designated Secrets Bill,” Which Could Pose a Threat to Basic Freedom and Democracy
 
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.
Lucy Birmingham
President, Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan
November 11, 2013
日本外国特派員協会
東京都千代田区有楽町1-7-1
有楽町電気ビル20F
☎03-3211-3161
Designated Secrets blend
「特定秘密保護法案」は報道の自由及び民主主義の根本を脅かす悪法であり、撤回、または大幅修正を勧告します。
日本外国特派員協会は現在日本の国会で審議中の「特定秘密保護法案」に深い懸念を持っています。
我々が特に懸念を抱いているのは、記者を標的にして起訴と懲役刑の対象にしかねない同法案の条文び与党議員の一部がそれに順ずる発言です。
開かれた社会においては、政府と政治家の活動に関する秘密を明らかにして、国民に知らせることが調査報道の真髄であります。調査報道は犯罪行為ではなく、むしろ民主主義の抑制と均衡のシステムに不可欠な役割を果たしています。
本法案の条文によれば、報道の自由はもはや憲法に規定されている権利ではなく、政府高官が「充分な配慮を示すべき」案件に過ぎなくなっていることを示唆しているようにとらえても無理はないのです。
その上、「特定秘密保護法案」は政府の政策に関する取材でも「不適切な方法」を用いてはならない、とジャーナリストに対する脅し文句も含まれています。これは、報道メディアに対する直接的な威嚇の如しであり、個別のケースにおいて許せないほどに拡大解釈ができるようになっています。
このような曖昧な文面は事実上、政府・官僚は存分にジャーナリストを起訴することができるよう、お墨付きを与えることになります。
日本外国特派員協会の会員は日本国籍も外国籍も含まれています。しかし、1945年に設立された由緒ある当協会は常に報道の自由と情報の自由な交換が、日本と諸外国との友好関係や相互理解を維持増進するための、不可欠な手段と考えてまいりました。
その観点から、国会の方々へ「特定秘密保護法案」を全面的に撤回するか、または将来の日本国の民主主義と報道活動への脅威を無くすよう大幅な改訂を勧告いたします。
ルーシー・バーミンガム
日本外国特派員協会々長
平成25年11月11日

 

 

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11 thoughts on “Japan’s “Designated Secrets Bill” Threatens Freedom of The Press; FCCJ protests”
  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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?

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