Japan to punish whistleblowers leaking state secrets 


Dec 18, Oslo: Reporters Without Borders has  expressed regrets over the decision that the Japanese took by allowing a draconian law on state secrets, one that violates the constitution and limits media freedom, to take effect, on 10 December 2014.

Passed a year ago by the Japanese parliament, the Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets (SDS) provides for sentences of up to 10 years in prison for whistleblowers who leak “state secrets” and for journalists and bloggers who report information they obtained “illegally” or sought from whistleblowers.

“The new law is also dangerous because of the vagueness of the criteria used for classifying information as a “state secret” and the lack of transparency with which the government is allowed to act,” said Reported without Borders in a statement issued earlier this week.

In a statement released on 10 December, Japnese journalists have said they are also now trying to rally a majority of parliamentarians in the Japanese Diet in an attempt to get the law repealed.

As well as arguing that the law is unconstitutional, they point out that the government pushed it through parliament a year ago regardless of strong public opposition and then, in October, ignored 24,000 online comments critical of the enforcement order and implementation guidelines.

“This law clearly violates Japan‘s constitution,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of he Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk. “By refusing to recognize the existence of the principle of general interest and by flouting the public’s right of access to information, Prime Minster Shinzo Abe’s government is taking Japan back 50 years.

“What if the nuclear power issue and the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster were classified, or if the government wanted to cover up a case of corruption? There is no provision for oversight of the government and the size of the possible jail terms would deter most journalists from investigating a classified subject.”

Ismaïl added: “We urge the government to repeal this draconian law as the group of 43 independent Japanese journalists have requested.”

The Oslo Times

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