The Abe Cabinet today is submitting to the Diet a bill designed to protect state information that the government deems vital to national security. The bill, which will give the heads of administrative bodies discretionary power to designate an extremely wide range of information as "special secrets," will greatly limit the ability of the general public and mass media to access relevant information, thus undermining freedom of the press and the people's right to know. If the content of the bill is closely scrutinized, it becomes clear that it will undermine the foundation of Japan's democracy. We strongly urge Diet members, whether they belong to the ruling or the opposition bloc, to oppose the bill and defeat its passage.

Since the bill will enable the bureaucracy to hide an enormous amount of government information from the public, it appears to violate the basic principle of the Constitution that "sovereign power resides with the people." Under the bill, the heads of administrative bodies will have discretionary power to designate information as special secrets in the areas of defense, diplomacy, prevention of "special harmful activities" (mainly intelligence activities by foreign countries) and prevention of terrorism if they think the information merits special protection. National public servants who are charged with leaking such secrets could face up to 10 years' imprisonment.

The bill includes a clause that says due consideration must be given to freedom of the press and people's right to know. But this clause will do little to uphold these fundamental democratic principles because it is merely a declaration and lacks any enforcement mechanism.