JAPAN: New Komeito Party Hopes to Safeguard Media Freedom

JEREMIAH FAJARDO WRITES – Amid the battering winds of Typhoon Wipha, the Japanese government has publicized a refreshing piece of legislature, hoping to broaden the media’s freedom of speech.

The bill, referred to as the “Secrets Protection Bill,” aims at “protecting national security secrets to ensure freedom of the media to collect information,” according to The Yomiuri Shimbun. Interestingly, while the law increases protection of press freedoms, it also  includes harsher punishment for government officials who reveal confidential state information.

Much of the measure has been shaped thanks to input from the New Komeito party, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) coalition partner. Earlier drafts reportedly failed to include protections for the media, focusing solely on penalties for those who leaked state secrets. The New Komeito saw this as problematic and likely to lead to abuse by the government. It was after this critique that the LDP announced the provisions “to ensure the right of the press to collect information (…), freedom of the media and the right to know.”

Whether this beneficial measure will pass is currently unknown. But, its odds are certainly good considering this past July’s elections brought an end to the divided Diet.

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