Newspaper article The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)

EDITORIAL: Govt Info Protection Legislation Must Not Hamper Media Freedom

Newspaper article The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)

EDITORIAL: Govt Info Protection Legislation Must Not Hamper Media Freedom

Article excerpt

If the nation's management of highly confidential national security information is sloppy, the country will lose the confidence of its allies and face difficulty sharing information with them.

It is important to forge a new legal framework for information protection.

The government has announced the outline of a bill legislating the protection of government "special secrets" that is scheduled to be submitted to an extraordinary Diet session this autumn.

The planned bill, if passed, will designate national security-related secrets requiring an especially high level of confidentiality as special secrets. The proposed bill stipulates harsh punishment, including imprisonment of up to 10 years, for officials found to have leaked such secrets. The officials subject to the law will include certain government officials and politicians in the three highest ministerial ranks--minister, senior vice minister and parliamentary secretary.

The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe considers the legislation indispensable to establish an institution similar to the U.S. National Security Council.

The planned Japanese version of the NSC is supposed to act as a control tower in running the nation's diplomatic and security policies. It will be in charge of managing key information from relevant ministries and agencies in an integrated manner, while receiving confidential information related to terrorism and military affairs from such countries as the United States.

Military threats from North Korea, which has been pushing ahead with nuclear weapons development programs, and China's rapid arms buildup have become increasingly alarming.

To ensure Japan's peace and security under such circumstances, it is of vital significance to beef up the nation's information protection, while boosting exchanges of information with such allies as the United States.

According to the bill's outline, the concept of "special secrets" will comprise information relevant to four fields: national defense, diplomacy, prevention of spying activities and prevention of terrorist activities. Relevant members of the Cabinet will designate special secrets.

Fears of restrictions

A special secret designation will remain for a maximum of five years. Designation renewal will be possible, but will be lifted when deemed unnecessary, according to the outline. …

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