"We will continue to express our opposition to this law--and we will continue with our reporting in response to the people’s right to know." - NOBUYUKI SUGIURA/ Managing Editor, Tokyo Head Office
"The Asahi Shimbun focused on the dangers of the state secrets protection bill. Although the bill has now become law, we have no intention of stopping our efforts to point out its problems and show how it threatens the daily lives of the general public.
Every organization has information that it cannot make public. And Japan already had laws to protect such information.
But the new law almost limitlessly widens the range of what can be considered confidential by allowing bureaucrats and politicians to designate state secrets to their liking.
Another problem with the law is that background checks and scrutiny of people who handle state secrets will extend to their family members.
Moreover, there is no independent agency to oversee the designation of state secrets.
During the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Fukushima nuclear accident, the central government concealed information that was vital to protecting the lives and property of the people, making it impossible to use that data in a positive manner.
Under the new law, the general public will be put in a position of not even knowing what is a secret. Those who leak such “secrets” face a maximum prison term of 10 years.
This is the totally opposite direction that Japan should be taking in terms of information.
We have run articles about the possibility of the general public facing criminal charges should the new law take effect. Those articles were written based on advice from experts and studies of past cases.
Some people criticized that series of articles and the concerns they raised as “unrealistic.”
However, the nature of such laws is that their interpretations expand, which is what happened with the Public Security Preservation Law before the end of World War II.
Information gathered by the central government using taxpayer money should, by rights, belong to the people. If such information is made a state secret, it should be done in a very limited manner.
We must keep in mind that the mission of a media organization is to serve the people’s right to know by digging up and transmitting information that belongs to the people.
Japanese society after the end of World War II chose a path of resolving political struggle and policy confrontation not through violence, but through public debate.
The occasional attempts to silence such debate through violence have been pushed aside by the people who have supported free speech and dialogue.
A law that places much of the information that forms the basis for public debate into a box called “state secrets” is essentially at odds with the close to 70 years of democracy in Japan since the end of World War II."