As almost five years have passed since the law on management and storage of official documents went into effect, a panel of experts at the Cabinet Office is now reviewing it and will make recommendations this spring. Article 1 of the law says that official documents of administrative organizations are the people's intellectual property that underpins the foundation of a healthy democracy. The panel should review the law from the standpoint of reinforcing the principle of sovereignty resting with the people by improving public access to official documents.

The law, enacted in 2009, was the legacy of former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, who thought that the sloppy handling of official documents must stop and that politics must be brought closer to the people. Incidents that prompted the enactment of the law included the health ministry's failure to notice the existence of internal documents identifying people who could have been infected with the hepatitis C virus and the sloppy handling of some 50 million pieces of pension-related records by workers at the now-defunct Social Insurance Agency. But the transfer of official documents to the National Archives of Japan has not been smooth and public access to official documents with historical significance has not increased since the law went into force.

The state secrets law, enacted in December 2013 and put into force a year later, does not rule out the possibility of the government disposing of documents that have been declassified after being designated as secrets for more than 30 years. It has also surfaced that the Cabinet Legislation Bureau did not keep official records of internal discussions leading up to the Abe administration's reinterpretation of the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution to lift a self-imposed ban on Japan engaging in collective self-defense. Clearly there are many points the panel should discuss to improve the law and its implementation.