UN News: “Independent UN experts seriously concerned about Japan’s Special Secrets Bill” Fine, but too late.


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Hi Blog. First the news, then commentary:


UN News, New York, Nov 22 2013  1:00PM
Two independent United Nations human rights experts today expressed serious concern about a Government-sponsored draft bill in Japan that would decide what constitutes a State secret.

The Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression and on the right to health requested further information from the Japanese authorities on the draft law and voiced their concerns regarding its compliance with human rights standards.

“Transparency is a core requirement for democratic governance,” the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, Frank La Rue, <“http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=14017&LangID=E“>said.

He stressed that secrecy in public affairs is only acceptable where there is a demonstrable risk of substantial harm and where that harm is greater than the overall public interest in having access to the information kept confidential.

“The draft bill not only appears to establish very broad and vague grounds for secrecy but also include serious threats to whistle-blowers and even journalists reporting on secrets.”

According to reports, information related to defence, diplomacy, counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism will all be classified as a state secret, while ministers could decide what information to keep from the public.

Meanwhile, the Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Anand Grover, who visited Japan last year and studied the response to the disaster in Fukushima, underlined the need for to always ensure full transparency in emergency contexts: “Particularly in calamities, it is essential to ensure that the public is provided with consistent and timely information enabling them to make informed decisions regarding their health.”

“Most democracies, including Japan, clearly recognize the right to access information. As much as the protection of national security might require confidentiality in exceptional circumstances, human rights standards establish that the principle of maximum disclosure must always guide the conduct of public officials,” concluded the rapporteurs.

The bill in question establishes the grounds and procedures for classification of information held by the Government of Japan.

Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.
For more details go to UN News Centre at http://www.un.org/news

The Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan has issued a protest of their own, in pdf format, at http://www.fccj.or.jp/images/FCCJ-State-Secrets-Protest-eng.pdf

However, my comment is pretty straightforward:  The snowball is rolling and a version of this legislation, even if “watered down” (or perhaps not), will probably be rammed through into law, since both houses of Parliament are in the hands of ultraconservative parties without a viable opposition party anymore.

Why wasn’t this seen coming down the pike in the first place before it got to this stage?  The warning signs were all there from last December’s election (before that, even, if you read PM Abe’s manifestoes about his “beautiful country“) about Japan’s rightward swing.  This consolidation of information control has always been part and parcel of state control — no surprises, especially in Japan.  So this public reaction of both naiatsu and gaiatsu is too little, too late.  Get ready for the politicized criminalization of public disclosure.  Arudou Debito

27 comments on “UN News: “Independent UN experts seriously concerned about Japan’s Special Secrets Bill” Fine, but too late.

  • Yes, what’s this ‘Japan is a spies paradise’ meme all of a sudden? The Japanese are intentionally paranoid about foreigners, I can’t imagine foreign spies have much luck. And how does gagging journalists and whistleblowers help combat spying?

    In a country with a transparency deficit in government, a media that is totally housebroken, I don’t see that this legislation could serve any purpose than to effectively give control of ‘news’ to the government. Fukushima news embarrassing Abe? No problem! No more news! Abe drawing international criticism for his regional troublemaking? No problem! No more news. Abenomics a failure of policy? No problem! No more news. Concerned citizens take to the streets to protest? No problem! No more news.

    If its not in the news, it’s like it never happened. See the problem with this? In Japan, of all places.
    Still, I got my sang froid, the Japanese are getting the government they deserve.
    They can’t say we didn’t warn them.

  • Winning Gold at Dressage Doesn't Count says:

    The spy’s paradise “meme” has been around for quite some time. Suganuma Mitsuhiro, former chief of Japan’s domestic intelligence agency (Koancho) stated as such in 2006, and there have been many prior references. There was actually one Soviet Spy who after many years of being watched by the Koancho, slipped up, was deported, but then wrote a book in Japanese about how much he loved Japan because his work was so easy there. I’ve met the guy. He really does love Japan.


    That said, these new security laws are indeed troublesome. Japan had very little protection against foreign agents working in the country, but these new laws provide virtually no oversight of government classification. It’s going from one extreme to another.

  • OK, I’ll come clean. Government can huff and puff all they like. The real ‘beef’ is in actionable intelligence. One aspect of my ‘job’ in Japan was industrial espionage. I would receive requests from overseas companies with specific questions: “Who’s doing this research? What did they uncover? What’s the system they’ll put into the new product? How good is it? etc. etc. etc.”
    They asked. I found out. I invoiced them. They paid to my overseas account. Never another question asked. One of the best ‘jobs’ I ever had….and still have, now in the EU zone. I’d just buy a ticket on the 1st class train between certain industrial hubs, pretend to be checking my e-mail/voice-mails, listen to my (pre-screened…I had a network of tipsters) co-passengers, record their indiscreet conversations (when they think I am not listening or don’t understand the language) and then feed it to my ‘buyers’ for the usual fee. €1000 a 3-hour trip is not a bad payoff.

    Folks, ‘it ain’t rocket-surgery,’ to quote a certain person who thought he was the P.O.T.U.S. twice. And this new secrecy law……..Yawn! (‘Nuff said….I’m not inclined to offer advice or take on apprentices.) Suffice it to say, folks will talk themselves into trouble, and I will just listen, and make detailed notes. Now, if that isn’t a business opportunity for some savvy bilingual international resident, I don’t know what is. Trust me, you won’t be encroaching on my territory!

  • DK, I think you make a fair point. This law won’t stop leaks and spies of any stripe. It’s just an excuse to gag the press when the inevitable happens, and Abe’s approval ratings go south.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    The secret bills will likely open up the chapter that enables the state to wage war on free press. This will further undermine the quality of mundane J-journalism. Why? To prevent another Greenwald, Snowden, or Manning from disclosing national secret to the media outlets? None of those have the link with Japanese national security. None of those even live in Japan! How many Takichi Nishiyama have we ever seen so far!? Very few. And J-leaders are trying to do the same thing like their big ally(the US), who admitted spying on them for years(!) Speaking of Snowden ‘paranoid.

  • @ DR, a non Asian NJ is of course perfect for this mission, as just by looking at the face it is assumed you can never understand the difficult nuances of the Japanese language.

    The prejudices of onsen entrance refusal given a kind of come uppance on a far more serious level!


    JDG#4, I’m obviously not DR, the industrial spy. Hope that wasn’t a Freudian slip or something! “;oP
    (I agree, though, that the prevailing tatemae “ambience” in Japan does encourage people to spy on each other – but I digress..)

  • So far all my predictions for the year have come true, so I’ll indulge myself with another.

    The secrecy law will be used to intimidate into silence any J-media that dare to think of reporting on;

    1. Accidents at Fukushima.
    2. Failing Abenomics.
    3. Any protests against #1 & #2.
    4. Corporate corruption (like Olympus).
    5. Government corruption at any level (yes Gov. Inose with the right wing extortionist friend, I’m looking at you).
    6. Any possible future efforts to antagonize China into a shooting incident at the Senkakus.
    7. Any protests against revisionism in education, and the introduction of ‘patriotism’ lessons.
    8. Malpractice (eg, food labeling scandal, after all, think of the Michelin stars!).
    9. Government back-channel efforts to get kidnapped J-nationals back from N. Korea by offering aid, that effectively undermine the 6 party talks aimed at preventing N. Koreas nuclear program.

    I’m sure readers can help me increase the list of endless abuses this law opens the door for.

  • @JDG (#8) About 2. Failing Abenomics, I have the impression that the consent among my (university educated) co-workers and other people I know is that Abenomics has been an all-out triumph. Yes, I say has been because for them, Abe has kept all his promises and did a “heckuva job”, regardless if the house of cards will ultimately fall, or Japan will return to economic decline in the mid-term. Nobody seems to be willing, or able to, see the problems Abenomics doesn’t fix, and even if they do, as I assume, again, the dangerous affect to ignore the questions that should follow naturally from all the hogwash the government tries to sell, wins out.
    Abenomics is the past – if anything happens to the Japanese economy from now on out, I am very sure that nobody will blame Abe for it.

  • Jim Di Griz # 8
    The use of legislation to intimidate is basically using “wiggle” clauses in the legislation to get your own way and to justify your methods

    May I add:-

    10.The Hague Convention on Whaling …Decision by the ICJ to be handed down before the end of 2013… and Japan will agree????

    11.The Hague Convention on International Child Abduction…to be fully ratified by Japan and in effect by April 2014…interpretation of the implementation TBA !!!!!

  • @ Markus #10

    You’re quite right, the sheeple are falling over themselves in adoration of abenomics because the media keeps telling them too. And yet, using the improved profits from the weakened yen, japanese exporters continue to hollow out, instead of investing in Japan and raising wages. It doesn’t matter, Abe and friends made a bomb on the stock market, and can get the profit into another currancy before the crash happens. And of course, as nationalism dictates, it will all be the fault of some foreign effort to destroy Japan.
    Again, the people are getting the government they deserve, but why should NJ have to suffer it too?

  • @JDG#8: your list brought an (evil) smile to my face. Agree with all those.

    @Markus#10: Good point. It should be noted that this is exactly what everyone wanted. Short term, immediate gratification of the economy “getting better.” Has it really? Time will tell. But for many Japanese, a “weak yen” (just remember, a few years ago the yen exchanging 100yen to the dollar was considered shockingly strong) plus a “strong” market (like someone climbing halfway up a well they’ve fallen down) is exactly what they wanted to see. Abe knew how to deliver that without having to make any real changes to the way Japan does business. Are we hearing anything about the yet unshot 3rd and 4th “arrows” of his plan?? However, as we’ve talked about here, giving the people exactly what they want was the keystone to doing what HE wants. The passing of the Special Secrets Bill is but first stroke and an important one if the LDP will proceed with their constitutional amendments which JDG, can also be another item on that list. What special clauses and such will now be illegal to leak or report on is a scary thing to consider.

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    Markus, regarding Abenomics, my experience has been the opposite: everyone has been grumbling about higher prices, particularly for energy, and is pessimistic about the inflation that is already rearing its ugly head. With the two-stage increase in the consumption tax already decided, the already-underemployed generation now in its 20s and 30s, about to enter some high-spending years, it’s becoming clear that Abe is prepared to sacrifice this generation to keep the Boomers (who are more likely to own stocks and be insulated from inflation and curency devaluation) rich.

    I myself am much angrier at Abe for devaluing his own nation’s currency by nearly a third in less than a year than at any of his nationalist bluster. That’s three times as bad as what happened on Cyprus, only with a lot less bad press because devaluing fiat money doesn’t attract attention like outright confiscation does.

  • I agree with Mark. To me, it’s obvious that Abe/whoever it is making decisions is ring-fencing Japan’s dwindling wealth and ensuring it remains in the hands of the industrial/political elite. There will be no trickle down, only rapid impoverishment of a majority of Japanese. Japan is getting extremely unpleasant for a great many people.

  • Maybe more to the point Debito intended….http://rinf.com/alt-news/editorials/japan-reacts-to-fukushima-crisis-by-banning-journalism-2/ Could this be related to the new secrecy law?

    — The following article is more to the point, for me. Look how the Yomiuri tries to sell it!

    Govt readies for intelligence sharing
    The Yomiuri Shimbun
    PHOTO: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe claps Tuesday night after the House of Representatives approved a bill to protect state secrets.
    November 28, 2013
    Kentaro Nakajima and Takeo Maeda / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writers

    With the Wednesday enactment of a bill to create a Japanese version of the U.S. National Security Council—following the House of Representatives’ passage of a bill the day before to protect specially designated secrets—the government is better equipped to share such confidential information as that regarding the Chinese military and North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs with the United States and other nations, according to government sources.

    Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stressed Tuesday that legislation to protect top state secrets is essential if the country wants the Japanese NSC to function as designed—as a headquarters for devising diplomatic and security policies.

    “The protection of secrets is a prerequisite for the Japanese version of the NSC to exchange information with other nations,” Abe said at the House of Representatives’ Special Committee on National Security before the bill to protect specially designated secrets was passed through the lower house. “It is urgent to put in place a legal system for protecting state secrets.”

    The Japanese NSC is meant to analyze military and security intelligence provided by the United States and other nations. “Useful information will not be provided to a country that does not protect state secrets by law. This is common knowledge in the world of intelligence-gathering,” an aide close to Abe said.

    The bill to protect state secrets, therefore, is aimed first and foremost at creating a mechanism to prevent the leak of top secrets concerning national security.

    Public servants who leaked state secrets have been subject to punishment under the National Civil Service Law. But the punishment meted out to violators was less than one year in prison, which is much lighter than in other nations with stiffer confidentiality laws.

    This lack of a stringent confidentiality law governing national government officials caused other nations to see Japan as a nation at high risk of intelligence leaks, hindering the nation’s efforts to gather confidential information from foreign governments.

    For instance, the United States has refused to disclose information about the U.S. military’s F-35 stealth fighter, which the Air Self-Defense Force is scheduled to purchase in fiscal 2016. This has led many in Japan to wonder if the reason was flaws in Japan’s legal system for protecting state secrets.

    The bill sent to the House of Councillors for voting would stiffen penalties to “imprisonment with penal servitude for a term of less than 10 years” for national government employees who are found to have purposely leaked “specially designated secrets” concerning national security.

    As a result of talks to amend the government’s original bill with Your Party and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), the public’s right to know was clearly stated in the bill and the original provision that the government could keep information confidential beyond 30 years with cabinet approval was revised to oblige the government to disclose such secrets after 60 years. Exceptions for secrets in seven categories, including secret codes, defense equipment and information sources, would allow that information to be kept secret for longer than 60 years.

    “In most cases, no problems will result from releasing intelligence from 60 years earlier,” a top government official said.

    During a suprapartisan study session of Diet members on Tuesday, Abe expressed his high expectations for the bill, saying, “The head of a certain nation’s intelligence organization told me that if Japan passes a good bill, there will be more exchanges of intelligence with Japan.”

  • — David McNeill reports on recently-passed State Secrets Bill. Pretty soon it might be through foreign papers that certain information ever sees public view:

    State secrecy law carrying threat of 10-year jail term criticised as attack on democracy but PM denies trying to gag press
    DAVID MCNEILL Author Biography TOKYO Tuesday 26 November 2013

    In a car park 25 miles south of the plant, a nervous maintenance worker on a rare break told The Independent that conditions onsite were chaotic and dangerous. Workers were exhausted; nobody at the top seemed to know what they were doing.

    Nearly three years later, Japan’s parliament is set to pass a new state secrecy bill that critics warn might make revealing such conversations impossible, even illegal. They say the law dramatically expands state power, giving every government agency and ministry the discretion to label restricted information “state secrets”. Breaching those secrets will be punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

    The Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, denies he is trying to gag the media or restrict the public’s right to know. “There is a misunderstanding,” he told Japan’s parliament today as the Lower House prepared to pass the bill (to be enacted on 6 December). “It is obvious that normal reporting activity of journalists must not be a subject for punishment.”

    Few people outside the government, however, seem to believe him. The legislation has triggered protests from Human Rights Watch, the International Federation of Journalists, the Federation of Japanese Newspapers Unions, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations and many other media watchdogs. Academics have signed a petition demanding it be scrapped.

    “It represents a grave threat to journalism because it covers such a wide and vague range of secrets,” said Mizuho Fukushima, a former leader of the opposition Social Democratic Party. She pointed out that the bill casts its net so wide it even includes a clause for “miscellaneous” secrets.

    Inevitably, perhaps, debate on the new law has been viewed through the prism of the Fukushima crisis, which revealed disastrous collusion between bureaucrats and the nuclear industry. Critics say journalists attempting to expose such collusion today could fall foul of the new law, which creates three new categories of “special secrets”: diplomacy, counter-terrorism and counter-espionage, in addition to defence.

    Damage caused by the tsunami to the Unit 3 reactor building at Fukushima (AP) Damage caused by the tsunami to the Unit 3 reactor building at Fukushima (AP)
    During deliberations in November, Masako Mori, the minister in charge of the bill, admitted that security information on nuclear power plants could be designated a state secret because the information “might reach terrorists.” The designation would mostly be left to elite bureaucrats.

    The government has attempted to steer debate away from Fukushima and toward rising tensions in Asia. Japan’s government says the secrecy legislation has been introduced partly to head off pressure from the US, its key military ally. Washington is still struggling to put out its own diplomatic fires started by whistleblowers Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning.

    One possible application for the new law could be seen in November, when Japan held some of its largest-ever military exercises near the southern prefecture of Okinawa.

    Opponents of the bill say Japan’s mainstream media is in any case already largely compliant. The latest (2013) World Press Freedom survey, published by journalism watchdog Reporters Without Borders, ranks Japan just 53rd, behind most advanced democracies and Lithuania and Ghana.

    “Why do we need another law,” asks Taro Yamamoto, an independent politician. “What the government is truly trying to do is increase the power of the state.”

  • Nice quote from Taro Yamamoto who seems more willing to buck the system in a genuinely radical way than headline whore and former media golden boy Hashi-moron. I’m still waiting for an apology from the apologists about Hashi-moron. I told them he wasn’t the face of the future, and they all bleated that he was something radical and new that would change the face of Japanese politics.

  • And an ever nicer quote from T. Yamamoto:

    Japanese press baulks at push for ‘fascist’ secrecy laws […] Taro Yamamoto [an upper house lawmaker] said the law threatened to recreate a fascist state in Japan. “This secrecy law represents a coup d’etat by a particular group of politicians and bureaucrats,” he told a press conference in Tokyo. “I believe the secrecy bill will eventually lead to the repression of the average person. It will allow those in power to crack down on anyone who is criticising them – the path we are on is the recreation of a fascist state.” He said the withholding of radiation data after the Fukushima disaster showed the Japanese government was predisposed to hiding information from its citizens and this law would only make things worse. […]
    –Source: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/media/japanese-press-baulks-at-push-for-fascist-secrecy-laws/story-e6frg996-1226767298077#

    It’s truly refreshing – if not revolutionary – to see someone Japanese and IN Japan calling a spade a spade, esp. at this juncture. This man is risking a lot. Isn’t he the guy who stirred up a scandal a few weeks ago when he handed a letter on Fukushima to the Emperor?

    It’s FASCISM indeed and there’s no other honest way to put it.

  • As expected, Yamamoto is already being harassed by and receiving death threats from the ubiquitous uyoku:


    銃弾入り脅迫文「山本太郎殿 近日中に射殺します」
    スポーツ報知 11月22日(金)7時4分配信



     さらに1枚の紙に「山本太郎殿 近日中に射殺します」と書かれた脅迫文も同封されていた。封筒の裏には差出人の名前と「天誅」の文字が書かれていた。同署は「文字はマジックのようなもので、すべて手書きだった」と話した。




    As things are going, it won’t be too long till they start going after you and me…

  • Wow, Yamamoto called a spade a spade. I didn’t think I’d see someone of influence speak out like this in this country, and it’s the exact thing that needs to be said even if he’s got no chance of being labeled as anything else than “crazy” now. I guess we’ll see him being caught with drugs or Yakuza money or both soon, or he’ll simply be murdered.
    Yet the fact that one person spoke out against this new rise of fascism in Japan already gives me hope that there might be a group of people who will at least put up a fight.
    Anyway, I think it is time to get out asap.

  • Don’t worry DK, if they go after you, they might embarrass Japan in the eyes of the world (as if they aren’t already). No, Mr. Yamamoto will most likely suffer trial by media, and lose at the next election never to be heard of again. I hope I’m wrong, IIRC he said that Japan was a ‘terrorist nation’ for radiation leaking from Fukushima, he gave that letter to Aki-chan, and now he’s speaking out against fascism. Good man!
    But the press has accused him of being sensationalist, alarmist, disrespectful of Japanese culture and tradition, and even of having his strings pulled by extreme communist groups. I suspect trial be media will see the sheeple reach a typically Japanese ‘decision’ about Mr. Yamamoto.

  • I believe we are entering a postmodern fascist stage; that is, the signs and symbols remain democratic, but the day to day reality is fascist, hence a more intense form of the “Soft fascism” we have been seeing in Japan for years. E.g. the labor law says you can give a months notice to quit, but in reality your boss wont “release” you (from what, indentured servitude?) and “allow” you to quit for another 5 months. This is not an NJ case, rather what Japanese salary men told me.

    Thus, corporatism- not free market capitalism- but the revival of zaibatsu in bed with a nationalist government. Individual rights are and will be confined to hobbies and carousing, with duties of the citizen to the company and thus, the state, emphasized more and more.

    In the 90s there was a sense of individualism and entrepreneurial spirit but since 2000 and Koizumi, a definite sense of “Right Taro, you have had your fun but it dint work out, so now its back to the life of a salary/serf man to make this country great again”

    I say men, as there is not much of a role for women in this nationalist vision of postmodern fascist Japan, other than to stay at home and be a birth machine. Hashimoto, Ishihara and co are all deeply misogynistic. Something they don’t even try to hide behind a sign.

    Hence Abe reviving “Safety Japan” for the Olympics. If there was one cliché about Japan that dies 3/11, this was it, but he continues to use this sign as a sound byte, as if to somehow conjure up it back into reality if he repeats it enough like a mantra.

    We see other democratic signs and symbols at work in the charm offensive to re arm Japan (well, actually just to call the defense force an army-the army it already is- and repeal the pacifist constitution).

    Japan was given the seeds of democracy in 1945 but some of these seeds did not take root and remain or have become, meaningless, outdated signs describing a Japan that does not exist, and quite possibly never did.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    #Baudrillard, @24

    >Thus, corporatism- not free market capitalism- but the revival of zaibatsu in bed with a nationalist government.

    I know, but you don’t have to distinct “corporatism” from that devil term. The latter won’t make people and politicians free anyway, because free market ideology only pleases big J-corporations and makes right-wing politicians more greedy and disgusting like the late Kanemaru. The nation could be in much more trouble if GOJ leans toward the latter.

  • Be interesting to see if this affects actions such as this:

    “..A Japanese widow is campaigning for new laws to prevent people from working themselves to death, it’s been reported..”*


    Cant image a plethora of people complaining, even less so now that to do so is “un-Japanese” by law!!

    What ever happened to contract law and enforcement of such…ahh yeah..the J Biz way of doing things, neh 😉


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