The Act is already being referred to by campaigners as the "Fuk-hush-ima Law
Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe is planning a new State Secrets Act that could supress publication and dissemination of information about the Fukushima nuclear disaster and other contentious issues.
A draft of the new law was approved by his cabinet last week and is likely to be passed in the current Parliamentary session, since Abe's Liberal Democratic Party-led bloc enjoys a big majority in both houses of parliament. Moreover the opposition is fragmented and disorganised.
The law would impose harsh penalties on those who leak secrets, or even try to obtain them. Journalists found to be breaking the law could be sent to prison for five years. Government employees rleasing secret information could be imprisoned for a decade.
Media and legal experts also say the law is both broad and vague, giving the Japanese government enormous scope to determine what would actually qualify as a state secret. Furthermore the law makes no provision for any independent review process, leaving wide latitude for abuse.
"Basically, this bill raises the possibility that the kind of information about which the public should be informed is kept secret eternally," Tadaaki Muto, a lawyer and member of a task force on the bill at the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, told Reuters. "Under the bill, the administrative branch can set the range of information that is kept secret at its own discretion."
The proposed law names four categories of ‘special secrets’, which would be covered by protection - defense, diplomacy, counter-terrorism and counter-espionage. It would also create a poweful new National Security Agency modelled on the US's NSA.
Critics of the Act believe that one of its main objectives could be to prevent the release of information relating to the ongoing nuclear catastrophe at Fukushima - reported today to have already cost as much as $100 billion. The Act is already being referred to by campaigners as the "Fuk-hush-ima Law".