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At Fukushima hearing, all speakers criticize state secrets bill via Asahi Shimbun

FUKUSHIMA–The ruling Liberal Democratic Party invited Namie Mayor Tamotsu Baba to speak about the state secrets protection bill, expecting support by a leader near the Fukushima nuclear disaster site to quell criticism against the legislation.

The party’s plan, however, backfired.

“I am afraid no clear bounds were established about what should be designated a state secret,” Baba told a hearing on the bill here on Nov. 25. He also said he cannot trust a government that tends to keep information under wraps.

In fact, all seven speakers at the hearing criticized the bill, saying its ambiguous wording leaves open the possibility of abuse and its harsh penalties could keep citizens in the dark about matters that directly affect their lives.

The ruling coalition, which railroaded the bill through a Lower House committee on Nov. 26, organized the hearing in the prefectural capital. Apart from speakers and politicians, only 50 members of the public could attend after obtaining admission tickets from Diet members.

Since the bill was submitted to the Lower House late last month, calls have grown for specific guidelines on what constitutes a state secret under the legislation.

But the ruling coalition and opposition parties failed to clearly define such state secrets in closed-door meetings and the debate at the Lower House’s special committee on national security.

The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tried to reassure leaders of Fukushima Prefecture that the designation of state secrets will not concern information about nuclear power plants.

[...]

The government failed to quickly release data from the computer-simulated System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information (SPEEDI). Much like a weather map, the system shows the predicted spread of radioactive materials following an accident.

Lacking the SPEEDI information, many Namie residents fled toward areas of high radiation levels during the evacuation.

Residents in Fukushima Prefecture are particularly worried about the concealing of information under the legislation, in light of the water leaks and other problems at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, as well as the decommissioning process that is expected to take decades to complete.

“The general public is concerned about officials’ broad interpretation of state secrets,” said Yumiko Nihei, professor of law at Sakura no Seibo Junior College who was invited by the opposition Democratic Party of Japan to give her views at the hearing.

Nihei, who called for a halt to the bill, also said the government should respect the opinions of the public. The government solicited views from the public on its website in September. Of the 90,480 comments posted, 77 percent were opposed to the legislation.

Nobuyoshi Hatanaka, a professor of the Japanese Constitution at Iwaki Junior College, stressed the importance of the government having a well-informed public before making a crucial policy decision.

“Defense and diplomacy are the central government’s sole prerogative, but how can the central government facilitate the benefit for the public without keeping the public informed?” he said.

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