Japan Sparks Furor With Bill to Boost Secrecy

Newspapers, demonstrators protest leak-prosecuting measure
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 29, 2013 12:31 PM CST
Japan Sparks Furor With Bill to Boost Secrecy
PM Shinzo Abe, second from right, claps with lawmakers of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party after a proposed state secrecy law was approved in parliament's lower house, Nov. 26, 2013.   (AP Photo/Kyodo News)

(Newser) – Looking to boost Japan's role in the region and the world, the country's conservative prime minister has sparked an uproar with his plan to increase state secrecy. A bill that just passed the lower house of parliament would raise penalties on civil servants and journalists who leak sensitive information, the BBC reports. Some argue that the proposal, which looks poised to become law, would make the nation more "normal" in its approach to defense. But newspapers and protesters are fuming over a measure they say is far from clear on what defines a secret; Japan's government is already known for keeping a tight lid on things, the New York Times notes.

"Allowing bureaucrats to declare whatever they want to be state secrets would make us no different than dictatorships like North Korea and China," says a Tokyo-based professor of media law. But Shinzo Abe argues that a secrecy measure is needed if Japan wants allies like the US to share sensitive information. Alongside a successful measure to create a National Security Council, the secrecy bill could help Abe alter the country's constitution and bolster its military, say experts. (Read more Japan stories.)

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