Japan’s new “state secrets act” stirs fears about press freedom, Fukushima transparency

Ahead of the attempt by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) to deal with the 400 tons of spent nuclear fuel at Fukushima Reactor 4, it looks like the government of conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has opted for less government transparency, not more.

(For background on what’s happening at the dangerously damaged Fukushima nuclear site, see here first, then here and here.)

After calls from a concerned scientists to act more forcefully and transparently, the Japanese government is responding — by planning a new state secrets law.

I don’t have to call this the “American solution” because the writer does.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Reuters (my emphasis and paragraphing):

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government is planning a state secrets act that critics say could curtail public access to information on a wide range of issues, including tensions with China and the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

The new law would dramatically expand the definition of official secrets and journalists convicted under it could be jailed for up to five years. …

Critics see parallels between the new law and Abe’s drive to revise Japan’s U.S.-drafted, post-war constitution to stress citizen’s duties over civil rights, part of a conservative agenda that includes a stronger military and recasting Japan’s wartime history with a less apologetic tone. “There is a demand by the established political forces for greater control over the people,” said Lawrence Repeta, a law professor at Meiji University. “This fits with the notion that the state should have broad authority to act in secret.

Abe says the new law, a draft of which was approved by his cabinet on Friday and should be passed by parliament in the current session, is vital to his plan to set up a U.S.-style National Security Council to oversee security policies and coordinate among ministries.

Just digest that; each piece of it. TEPCO has said they’re going to start working on that Fukushima Reactor 4 spent fuel rod pool in November. Still awaiting word on when the work will start.


To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius

Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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25 Responses to “Japan’s new “state secrets act” stirs fears about press freedom, Fukushima transparency”

  1. TrueSpeaker_CA says:

    Is this a revenge of 1945 ???? Sorry, but Japan was Nazi and maybe still is.

  2. karmanot says:

    Basic fact: They lost the war and must be reminded now and then that Hiroshima is a price to deadly to pay.

  3. karmanot says:

    Patriotism as a ‘value’ is, in itself, a can of worms. As I grew older I realized that ‘patriotism’ in most of its egregious poisons is of a par with deist propaganda.

  4. karmanot says:

    Complete agreement here.

  5. karmanot says:

    No, it is principle to complete adherence and applied violence in service to absolute authoritarianism. It’s applications go back as far the the Ashikaga period, Kamakura and Tokugawa periods. Your reference to Mishima, however, is relevant to classicist parody.

  6. karmanot says:


  7. karmanot says:

    The Chinese and Koreans are quite accustomed to the Japanese rewriting history: for example ——the Nanking ‘incident’, or the ‘unpleasantness’ in Shanghai.

  8. Monoceros Forth says:

    Lecture modes are fine. Sometimes I think I never leave that mode myself. :p

    I guess I’m the wrong person to have an opinion about such things as national pride, since honestly I’ve never had much myself. Partly it’s my upbringing I suppose; my mother was from Chile, having gotten out shortly before everything went to hell in 1973 (her younger brother was not quite so lucky but was able to get out eventually), and while she never said anything about it openly I think it must have galled her to have taken refuge in the very nation that put its weight behind Pinochet’s coup d’etat. And my dad has always been a cynic. So, between the two of them, I wasn’t raised with patriotism as a value. Maybe that’s not a good thing…

  9. Indigo says:

    To add to the horror story dimension, the Japanese government is talking about adopting the “American model” of security secrecy. Ah . . . imitation, the most sincere form of flattery. Yikes!

  10. Indigo says:

    So far.

  11. Indigo says:

    Nothing much, certainly no more so than our global interventionist mercenary Pentagon program, now stepping out of the Middle Eastern theater to explore military opportunities in Africa.

  12. Dave of the Jungle says:

    At least we are spared the spectacle of seeing Japanese politicians parading around in the uniforms of European naval officers.

  13. Indigo says:

    More like a propaganda system developed by nationalist writers as they revised Japanese history to fit the Western nation model, not unlike what rhetoricians did to German history, Italian history, US history (the Monroe Doctrine, for example). The Meiji emperor was all about modernizing Japan on the model of the Western nationalist model, including developing an industrial base. It worked. In fact, the model still works just fine. Japan is the only Asian nation that interacts with the West in terms of direct parity.

    It’s no more of a “lie” than our home-grown patriotic pieties, be they Domonionist or Tea Bagger or the mythology of Thomas Jefferson’s liberalism. Every generation reworks its national history to suit itself. Right now, the conservative Japanese government is talking about the duties of the citizen, respect for government, hard work, dedication to national spirit, all those old fashioned pieties we hear every 4th of July in our local versions or, for that matter, from every political pietist devoutly talking about the Patriot Act. It’s all lies, but . . . here we are.

    There are several shrines in Japan dedicated as war memorials, understandably a sensitive topic when a war memorial also includes war criminals. That’s the case with the Yasukuni Jinja which Abe makes a point of visiting on state occasions. That’s a very populist gesture on his part, pleases the nationalists and conservatives out in the boonies and in the boardrooms. It’s also dangerously inflammatory to the Koreans, both north and south, as well as to the Chinese. Tricky business is afoot because behind the Tepco scandal and the bona fide distress over the nuclear danger lurks a populist ideology that is not welcome in the halls of progressive global thinking.

  14. Dave of the Jungle says:

    Japanese school children are taught that the attack on Pearl Harbor was necessary because FDR’s oil embargo was an act of war and signaled hostile intent. It is considered to have been a preemptive attack. Isn’t that special?

  15. Monoceros Forth says:

    Wasn’t that all a bit of a lie, more of an invention of 19th century Japanese writers than a historical reality?

  16. BeccaM says:

    A re-militarized conservative-right Japan looking to rewrite WWII history so they don’t look bad anymore, added to a secret security state.

    Gee, what could go wrong with that?

  17. Suzuki Hiroshi says:

    Japan gov’t fails Fukushima children
    30 October 2013 Voice of Russia
    The damage inflicted by the Fukushima disaster could be far more severe than the Japanese authorities would like people to believe. The Japanese government raised the radiation limits for exposure at schools near the Fukushima plant to 20 millisieverts. A senior nuclear adviser to the government at the time abruptly resigned in protest saying the level was 20 times too high.
    Mayor of the city of Matsumoto located on the Japanese island of Honshu, has been calling for children’s relocation from the areas. Living in an area contaminated by radiation weakens children’s immune system and severely harms their health.
    Japan’s now defunct Nuclear Industrial Safety Agency originally hid important radiation data from the general public, to avoid causing panic. Radioactive materials continue leaking into the groundwater from the plant even though Fukushima’s operator.

  18. Bill_Perdue says:

    They’ve obviously had a talk with Obama – NDAA, FISA, Paytriot Act, etc.

  19. Indigo says:

    In a word? Bushido.

  20. Indigo says:

    On the bright side, Koizumi is attempting a comeback with a strong anti-nuclear program [http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/10/30/national/anti-nuclear-koizumi-agitating-for-comeback/#.UnFBzhAo1x0] but on the dark side, Abe is a fresh expression of the old-time nationalist party that seized control of the Japanese military back in the day. He might be good for a pseudo-restoration of the samurai cult, but his values are not focused on the international stage.

  21. arcadesproject says:

    All states are becoming police states.

  22. zorbear says:

    You don’t write things like that down; it would limit them…

  23. Monoceros Forth says:

    I like the preoccupation with a decades-old war, too. Maybe PM Abe could give the Republicans tips on how retroactively to win the Vietnam War.

  24. Gindy51 says:

    Sit down, shut up, buy crap, then die after spending any money left on medical care. Just like the US.

  25. Monoceros Forth says:

    …Abe’s drive to revise Japan’s U.S.-drafted, post-war constitution to stress citizen’s duties over civil rights.

    Oh, that sounds promising. What “duties” might these be?

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