TOKYO: Japan’s lower house of parliament is set to pass a controversial new state secrets bill on Tuesday, which critics say is draconian and will impinge on press freedom and the public’s right to know.
After a morning of debate, a special house committee gave the green light to the bill, which would give Tokyo far broader powers in deciding what constitutes a state secret, and severely punish those who leak the information.
“It is an urgent task to prepare for legislation that should remain secret at a time when fears over information leaks are growing,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the committee.
The hawkish premier insisted that the bill would neither restrict freedom of the press nor encourage authorities to “arbitrarily” designate information as restricted.
“Frankly speaking, there is misunderstanding,” Abe said. “I want to firmly say that it is obvious that normal reporting activity of journalists must not be a subject for punishment under the bill.”
Local media said the committee, dominated by his ruling coalition, was always likely to give the nod to the legislation, clearing the way for a vote in the full chamber later in the day.