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Japanese PM Thinks His People Just Don't Understand The State Secrecy Bill

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, December 9 2013

Shinzo Abe shakes hands with President Bush (Wikipedia)

In spite of objections from human rights activists and members of the media around the world, Japan's upper chamber made the controversial State Secrecy Protection Bill law in a “raucous, late-night session” last Friday, December 6, Reuters reports. The House of Representatives passed the bill on November 26. Under the new law, state employees could be jailed for up to 10 years if they leak secrets, and journalists could be jailed for up to five if they use “grossly inappropriate” tactics to uncover state secrets. The passage of the bill has sparked uncharacteristically large protests in a country where protesters have often been considered a part of the political fringe.

Global Voices contributor Keiko Tanka writes:

Until recently, acts of protest were considered some what rebellious and often times protesters were labeled as “professional activists”, “commies” or “leftists”. But since the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011, more people have started to take action and we have seen many first-time demonstrators. Yet those who oppose the secrecy bill seem to stretch beyond Japan's so-called left.

A Facebook page for a coalition of artists and media members protesting the law already has more than 13,500 likes after only being live since December 1.

For many, the State Secrecy Protection Bill has dredged up unhappy remembrances of the Fukushima disaster and the ill-handled aftermath.

The mayor of a town in the Fukushima prefecture, speaking on the topic of public information and government responsibility, said (Global Voices translation):

[After the earthquake and nuclear accident in March 2011], The SPEEDI information was not made public promptly, and residents were not able to make use of the SPEEDI information. There might have been other ways to operate evacuation if the information had been made public. The agreement of TEPCO and [the local government] to report was not kept. All of our rights― right pursuit happiness, right to live, right to property―were violated. Information should be made public to protect human rights. Anything that can be brought to light should be. The legislative measure should be more careful. It is crucial that officials discuss this with the public.

From what officials have stated, it seems like the law is a consequence of the National Security Agency (NSA) documents leaked to the press by Edward Snowden.

"We think that this law is extremely important for our connections with our allies and other foreign nations," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said. "I believe that people will come to understand."

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's popularity ratings have taken a hit, dropping 14 percent to an all-time (for him) low of 54.6 percent.

He attributes the drop in popularity, however, to the people's failure to understand the bill.

“With humility and sincerity, I must take the severe opinion from the public as a reprimand from the people. I now look back and think with regret that I should have spent more time to explain the bill carefully," Abe said Monday.

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