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International journalists' organisation denounces state secrets law enacted in Japan

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has denounced the enactment of a strict state secrets law in Japan that will toughen penalties for leaks, stating that it will restrict the freedom of the country's media and help officials in power cover up corruption.

Under the law, which was passed by the Upper House of the Japanese Parliament last Friday, 6 December 2013, public servants or other people with access to state secrets could be jailed for up to ten years for leaking them, while journalists and others in the private sector convicted of encouraging such leaks could get up to five years if they use "grossly inappropriate" means to solicit the information.

"We are deeply concerned about the enactment of this extremely severe law which was rushed through the Japanese Parliament far too quickly without an independent review process or consultation," said IFJ President Jim Boumelha.

"The law will deter potential whistleblowers in Japan from approaching journalists with information that is in the public interest, thereby undermining the ability of the media to report on issues that criticize and expose corruptions, abuse and wrongdoings."

According to media reports, the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, has said the law is needed to ensure the smooth operation of a new National Securities Council and to persuade foreign countries such as the United States to share information. Its enactment coincides with the worldwide debate on secrecy following the leaking of US National Security Agency document by Edward Snowden.

"This absolutely scandalous law has been created by bureaucrats in Japan to stifle and intimidate those people who have the courage to criticize the country's structures of power and stand up for the public good," said IFJ General Secretary Beth Costa. "The bill will not protect the safety of the people of Japan, it will prevent the truth from being told."

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