Top officials reiterate that the state secrets law, which took effect this week a year after it was enacted, will not infringe on the people's right to know. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who defied widespread public protests last year against ramming the legislation through the Diet, says the law is aimed at dealing with "terrorists and spies" and "basically has nothing to do with people at large."
Such a statement by the prime minister appears to illustrate how the Abe administration turns a deaf ear to lingering public concerns about the controversial law, which mandates prison sentences of up to 10 years for government officials and defense industry employees who leak information designated as state secrets, sentences of up to five years for those who conspire to leak or instigate the leaking of such information and sentences of up to 10 years for those who obtain designated secrets through illicit means.
Whether the law infringes on the people's right to know depends on whether the process of designating government information — considered public property in a democracy — as secrets is appropriate and whether there is a valid safeguard in place to stop government officials from improperly classifying secrets at their discretion. The law clearly fails to meet these criteria, due primarily to the absence of independent third-party oversight.