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HOME  > Past issues  > 2012 February 29 - March 6  > Media workers oppose bill eroding right to know and restricting press freedom
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2012 February 29 - March 6 [CIVIL RIGHTS]

Media workers oppose bill eroding right to know and restricting press freedom

March 1 and 2, 2012
Media workers on March 1 gathered in the Diet building to hold a rally in opposition to a “secret protection bill” the government is planning to submit to the Diet to restrict press freedom and the people’s right to know.

The Mass media Information and Culture Union (MIC), the Japan Congress of Journalists, and the Mass Media Article 9 Association, and other media-related groups organized the rally.

The government began considering the necessity of the bill in the wake of the leaked video footage of a Chinese fishing boat crashing into Japanese patrol vessels off the disputed Senkaku Islands early last year.

The bill increases items to be kept secret from those affecting national security and diplomacy to the maintenance of public order with penalties of up to 10 years imprisonment.

Lawyer Mori Takahiro pointed out that the bill may provoke a crisis of democracy, saying, “The bill’s true intent is to keep the general public blind and quiet.”

Shoji Tomo, head of the Japan Federation of Newspaper Workers’ Union, said, “The bill could be fatal” to accuracy in news reporting.

The Japan Federation of Bar Associations and the Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association (NSK) are also expressing their opposition to this bill because it will erode the freedom of news gathering and reporting.

The government is seeking to incorporate a penalty into the bill ascribing information-gathering acts from sources close to administrative organs as acts to abet them to disclose confidential information.

Even now, the general public is denied fair access to information that should be available to the public.

As of 2007, the Defense Minister designates 4,300 materials as “defense secrets” and 9,000 materials as “special defense secrets” associated with the Act on Protection of Secrets Incidental to the Japan-U.S. Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement. Ministerial and agency chiefs designate a total of 109,000 materials as “ministerial secrets”. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also keeps many documents secret, including Japan-U.S. secret nuclear agreements. The same applies to the National Police Agency and the National Public Safety Commission.
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