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Japan's state secrets law, a minefield for journalists

Protesters gather in Tokyo in November 2013 to voice concern over the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets Act, which is due to come into force in December
Protesters gather in Tokyo in November 2013 to voice concern over the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets Act, which is due to come into force in December

Reuters/Toru Hanai

Excerpt of a 4 November 2014 CPJ Blog post by Masatomo Norikyo/CPJ Guest Blogger.

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 the Protection 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.

Read the full blog post on cpj.org.

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