OSAKA — Passage of the freedom-of-information bill Friday was welcomed here with caution by members of supporting citizens’ groups, who expressed concern over just how the law will be applied.
“Although the law isn’t perfect because it does not specify the ‘right to know,’ it’s something we’ve longed for and should be appreciated,” said lawyer Mikio Sekine, a deputy director of the FOI team of the Osaka Bar Association.
“Valuable information is buried at the ministries like a treasure. Such information is an asset to taxpayers, but the bureaucrats have monopolized it so far,” Sekine said. “Administrative information should have been disclosed to us, and information disclosure is necessary to vitalize democracy.”
He said the disclosure system should be easily utilized by people. “Thus, fees to read and photocopy information should be reasonable.”
Applications to request information and to appeal denials of disclosure should also be accepted at local ministry offices, he suggested.
“Along with ministries and government agencies, semigovernmental corporations, which number more than 80 and are not subject to the law, should be made subject to the law as soon as possible because they have considerable information,” Sekine said.
Yoichi Esuga, a member of a citizens’ group opposing a dam on the Aigawa river in Osaka Prefecture, said, “The passage of the bill is only the start to utilizing the disclosure system, and it is up to us how the system will actually change the bureaucrats’ consciousness of information disclosure.”
When Esuga requested information on the dam construction at the Kinki Regional Construction Bureau in Osaka, he was told to go to the Construction Ministry in Tokyo. When he went there, he was told that the information belonged to the Osaka Prefectural Government.
“We have to make sure this will not happen again,” Esuga said.
Sekine, Esuga and other citizens’ groups plan to request government information at ministries’ Osaka offices later this month.