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Thousands protest proposed Japan secrets law

Thousands of people protested Thursday in Tokyo against proposed legislation that would significantly broaden the definition of "official secrets." The law is expected to pass [Reuters report] both houses of parliament when it comes to a vote next week. The law also imposes prison time for up to 10 years for information leaks for public servants and others cleared for access to such information. Critics of the law say it is too broad and vague, covering too much information, while the lack of an independent review process leaves wide latitude for abuse. They also allege that the law would prevent journalists from investigating official mistakes. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government proposed the law, insisting that the law is essential for setting up a US-style National Security Council. Organizers report [Al Jazeera report] that 10,000 people protested the proposed legislation.

Recently information leaks have become a controversial issue internationally. In September US lawmakers proposed [JURIST report] a massive overhaul of surveillance laws following an information leak in May, when former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden leaked information regarding secret NSA surveillance programs [JURIST backgrounder]. Legal commentators argue [JURIST op-ed] the espionage charge against Snowden rests on whether his disclosure of the gathering of call data harmed the US or helped a foreign nation. Lawmakers also called for a criminal investigation into the Snowden's involvement in the NSA surveillance scandal [JURIST podcast].

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