Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Japan's State Secrets Law 臭いものに蓋をする

People against secrecy.

This past week, I've blogged about the cultural context surrounding Toyota's determined persistence to keep a tight lid on negative information related to its safety defects. The broader Japanese cultural context is important because it sheds light on the predominance of deeply ingrained Japanese cultural factors that drive the company's conduct. No matter what kind of American mask Toyota applies to its brand, the decision-makers deep within the company are thoroughly...most perfectly and thoroughly...Japanese, and elites at that.

As leaders of a massive organization with a large public presence, their cultural affinity with Japanese politicians is unmistakable. Without at least the tacit support and "understanding," ie consensus, of Japan's major economic players--its corporations--legislators are unlikely to pass any important law. Branding Japan as a nice, westernized democracy is tantamount to the interests of its multinationals, and keeping the government's dirty secrets completely secret will support that agenda. Won't it?

Daily Beast: japan-s-new-secrets-bill-threatens-to-muzzle-the-press-and-whistleblowers.html



Japan’s new Secrets Bill Threatens To Muzzle The Press and Whistleblowers

An ominous new bill in Japan, on its way to becoming law, would give the government expanded powers to classify nearly anything as a secret and intimidate the press into silence.

The best way to deal with foul smelling things is to put a lid over them (臭いものに蓋をする)--Japanese proverb
The Japanese government, which already has a long history of cover-ups and opaqueness, is on its way to becoming even less open and transparent after the lower house the Diet, Japan’s parliament, passed the Designated Secrets Bill on Tuesday. With new powers to classify nearly anything as a state secret and harsh punishments for leakers that can easily be used to intimidate whistleblowers and stifle press freedom, many in Japan worry that the if the bill becomes law it will be only the first step towards even more severe erosions of freedom in the country.      
The bill, which can criminalize investigative reporting of the government or its policies, still needs to pass the Diet’s upper house to become law and is meeting some last minute opposition on its way there. [aside from citizens in opposition,] Last week, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights voiced their disapproval and concerns, noting the “the Secrets bill threatens transparency… (it) includes serious threats to whistle-blowers and even journalists reporting on secrets”.
---that was last year. The bill passed, and this year the consequences become clearer...
"On October 14, as Japan prepared to mark Newspaper Week--an event set up to promote the public right to know--Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet publicly announced guidelines on how the country's security law, which was passed in December 2013, is to be implemented. This date will be remembered as the point at which the public's access to government information was decimated. Under theProtection of Specially Designated Secrets Act (SDS), whistleblowing civil servants face up to 10 years in prison and the journalists who work with them could face up to five years for leaking state secrets. The guidelines will come into force on December 10, with no opportunity before that date for the public or lawmakers to change them.
Though just guidelines, they are important because they reveal how the act will be implemented. The guidelines split state secrets into four areas: defense, foreign affairs, counterespionage, and terrorism prevention. In turn, those four areas are broken into 55 subsections. Together, they empower the heads of 19 ministries and agencies to designate which documents and subjects comprise state secrets.
With all its complexity, the law leaves many questions unanswered. The problem lies in those 55 subsections, many of which seem intentionally vague. The result is that while civil servants will be aware of a document's classification, journalists cannot be sure just what comprises a state secret. Whistleblowing civil servants and journalists could face arrest even if they are convinced they are acting in the public's interest. With decisions to prosecute made on a case-by-case basis, the vagueness of the guidelines could become an important tool for the government if it wanted to discourage anyone from exposing sensitive information."
The Asahi Shimbun, Japan's equivalent to the NYT, expressed its concerns too.
"Public criticism and fears were expressed when the government took steps to listen to the voice of the people after the Diet enacted the state secrets protection law in December 2013.
However, the law’s operating guidelines approved by the Abe Cabinet on Oct. 14 have done little to dispel suspicions that the government will use the legislation to conceal “inconvenient” information at the expense of the people’s right to know."
Question: What did Japanese multinationals tell lawmakers about this bill?