Takichi Nishiyama, a former reporter for the Mainichi Shimbun who uncovered the secret pact on the U.S. reversion of Okinawa to Japan, criticized the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday for trying to centralize power and manipulate information with the contentious state secrets bill.
“The government believes it has to transform the Japan-U.S. alliance into a sacred cow,” Nishiyama told reporters at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan. “They will only leak the information that works for them.”
Nishiyama, 82, was found guilty of using devious tactics to obtain documents revealing Japan had secretly made a pact with the U.S. to pay $4 million of the cost of returning control of Okinawa. The documents were acquired from the foreign minister’s clerk, with whom he was having an affair.
Although the U.S. National Archives declassified this information between 1998 and 2000, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party refused to admit the pact exists.
“There are both good and bad things about the Japan-U.S. alliance, and we have to inform the public,” Nishiyama said. “It is only when the public is informed that they can make their decision by voting.”
If the secrets bill is passed, public servants as well as reporters will be punished if journalists seek state secrets using illegal methods. Masako Mori, the Cabinet member guiding the bill through the Diet, has said this is based on the 1978 Supreme Court ruling over Nishiyama’s case.
But Nishiyama criticized the clause for focusing only on methods of reporting, saying it disregards the implication of such reporting in terms of the public good.
“The information the public wants to access is the information the government wants to hide. This is an inherent paradox,” he said.
Nishiyama said a lot of information is already classified, especially in the realms of defense and diplomacy, and the government keeps the reins very tight.
Yet he also emphasized that the Japanese press should do a much better job of pursuing the public’s right to know, saying there have been only a few cases in which Japanese state secrets have come to light.
“Even though reporters proudly advocate the right to know, I would like to ask them if they have really exercised the right to know,” Nishiyama said. “Their reporting on secret pacts like this is mostly dependent on information obtained outside Japan. And we all should be ashamed of that, including myself.”
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