Japan parliament passes controversial secrecy law

Japan's parliament on Friday passed a controversial secrecy law amid widespread protests. The law, which has drawn protests [Bloomberg report] at every step of the approval process, targets public officials who leak information to the public. Those convicted under the law could face up to 10 years in prison. US based rights group, Open Society Foundations [advocacy website], criticized [press release] the law as a threat to public accountability. Others claim it is too broad and vague, covering too much information, while the lack of an independent review process leaves wide latitude for abuse. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's [official profile] government proposed the law, insisting that the law is essential for setting up a US-style National Security Council. This, Abe claims will allow the government to manage delicate information more effectively.

Protests began when the law was proposed [JURIST report] in November. 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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