Information grab raises ire across the spectrum

Kyodo

Journalists, citizens’ groups and academics, among others, are growing increasingly vociferous in their opposition to the state secrets bill.

The legislation is aimed at giving the government the unilateral right to keep information on defense, diplomacy and counterterrorism secret indefinitely.

Even the Fukushima Prefectural Assembly has weighed in. Many members have grown suspicious of the central government’s information disclosure practices since the nuclear disaster tainted its farmland.

The law, if enacted, could impose limits on free speech and information disclosure. In all, 102 nongovernmental groups active in international activities and a nonprofit group campaigning for increased disclosure have also spoken against the bill.

Signatures from more than 1,900 historians have been collected for a petition, and members of the media urged lawmakers to scrap the bill during a rally in Tokyo on Wednesday.

The rally in Chiyoda Ward adopted a statement to Masako Mori, state minister in charge of the secrecy bill, criticizing the loophole-ridden legislation. They included Hisae Sawachi, Makoto Sataka and journalists Shoko Egawa and Shuntaro Torigoe.

“There is a strong likelihood that bureaucrats will create secrets in an extremely arbitrary manner, and there is no mechanism at all for checking,” said journalist Soichiro Tahara.

Actor Bunta Sugawara also drew attention to the bill.

“I believe this is the first time since World War II that legislation like this has come out. I came here because I believe every citizen must really think about the issue,” he said.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan meanwhile issued a statement urging lawmakers to scrap or significantly revise the proposal. FCCJ President Lucy Birmingham said that while the club generally takes a neutral position on controversial issues, it cannot do so when freedom of the press is at stake.

The Fukushima assembly voted unanimously to request that the prime minister and speakers of both Diet chambers approach the matter cautiously.

Five groups of Nagasaki A-bomb survivors also sent a statement to the prime minister.

“(Before the war), the state controlled all information and citizens did not have the right to know. Is this country going back to that time?” it said.

The historians said: “We have strong fear that research to explore the truth in history may be disrupted.” Most of the signatories to the statement teach at high schools and universities.