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HOME  > Past issues  > 2007 February 21 - 27  > Raiding ASDF officer’s house raises concern about possible violation of freedom of press and citizens’ right to know
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2007 February 21 - 27 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Raiding ASDF officer’s house raises concern about possible violation of freedom of press and citizens’ right to know

February 17, 20, 24, 2007
In an extremely rare move, the Ministry of Defense military police in early February searched the house of an Air Self-Defense Force colonel on suspicion of leaking ministry “secrets.” The action is raising concern that it could infringe on the freedom of the press and the public’s right to know.

The allegedly leaked classified information was about a fire that broke out on a Chinese submarine in the South China Sea. In autumn of 2006, the Defense Agency (at the time) accused an unidentified suspect in connection with a Yomiuri Shimbun report on May 31, 2005 that the Japanese and U.S. defense sources had confirmed the incident.

On February 19, asked by reporters to comment on the search by military police, Japanese Communist Party Secretariat Head Ichida Tadayoshi stated, “The principle of people’s sovereignty dictates that the public has a right to know even if it has to do with defense secrets.”

He stressed, “Such high-handedness could force the mass media to back off, making it impossible for them to play their role,” and warned that this is a serious matter that will affect the public’s right to know as well as the freedom of the press.

A veteran Defense Ministry/SDF affairs reporter says, “Criticized by the U.S. for lax handling of secrets, Japan’s defense officials may have tried to show their allegiance to the U.S. forces by acting tough when the Defense Agency was upgraded to a ministry.”

He also said, “To begin with, leaking information about the Chinese submarine incident has nothing to do with leaking secrets. Normally, it would not even draw media attention. The military police has made such a minor issue open probably because the ministry wanted to improve the Japan-U.S. relations that were strained over the U.S. military realignment in Japan.”

Yoshida Ken’ichi of the Japan Lawyers Association for Freedom says that the Defense Ministry action could be the first step toward controlling the right to know and freedom of expression, and paving the way for dismantling Article 9 of the Constitution to turn Japan into a “war-fighting nation.”

In October 2005, the U.S. and Japanese governments as part of the U.S. military transformation in Japan agreed to “take additional necessary measures to protect shared classified information.”

The Japanese government wants to conclude a General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) with the U.S. in order to protect documents, including texts, photographs, and emails concerning U.S. forces.

A commentator said, “This is like the prewar media control reviving, now under the name of the ‘Japan-U.S. military alliance’.”
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