Takichi Nishiyama, “Okinawa Secret Pact Scandal”
INTERVIEW/ Takichi Nishiyama: Secrets protection law will silence government critics
Takichi Nishiyama, a former investigative journalist, warns that the state secrets protection bill approved by the Abe Cabinet on Oct. 25 will pave the way for “a secretive state that stifles criticism.”
“Democracy in Japan will be in name only, not in substance,” said Nishiyama, 82, who revealed the secret agreements reached by Japan and the United States concerning Okinawa’s reversion to Japanese sovereignty in 1972.
The bill, submitted to the Diet the same day, will toughen penalties on public servants who leak “specified secrets” that could jeopardize Japan’s national security.
Critics say the legislation leaves room for arbitrarily designating confidential information and will hamper the people’s right to know.
Excerpts from Nishiyama’s interview follow.
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In the half century after the end of World War II, Japan has not produced an active grass-roots movement that seeks official and accurate information from the state authorities.
The freedom of information law that took effect in 2001 did not provide for the people’s right to know. And it did not become a major issue when a revised bill including that right was scrapped.
The Japanese seem less interested in demanding the public disclosure of government information compared with other countries.
Few people appear interested in the state secrets protection law. The media, let alone the public, lack the power to pursue the problems inherent in the legislation.
Many secret agreements were concluded (about Okinawa) because the government had little regard for the people.
The Japanese government will try to protect secrets related to its alliance with the United States. The nuclear issue and the secret agreements concerning Okinawa both fall into this category.
The more Japan and the United States become inextricably linked in military terms, the more the conflicts with the Constitution will emerge.
After the Abe administration’s legislation is enacted, the designation of specified secrets can be renewed every five years. If it is extended every time it expires, information inconvenient to the government will never be disclosed.
A secretive state that stifles criticism will emerge, and the state authorities will tighten their control over the people’s access to information. Democracy in Japan will be in name only, not in substance.
Genuine secrets can result from diplomatic negotiations. But it is imperative the public is completely and accurately informed of the outcomes of such negotiations. If the government lies about the negotiations, it should be considered a political crime.
In that sense, the secret agreements on Okinawa constitute a most serious political crime.
While the Tokyo District Court and the Tokyo High Court both said secret deals were concluded, the Liberal Democratic Party government has continued to deny their existence.
The current administration, which has continued to lie to the Diet, is not qualified to submit the bill.
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Nishiyama was a reporter for the Mainichi Shimbun and was arrested in 1972 on suspicion of getting a Foreign Ministry clerk to show him confidential diplomatic cables in relation to the secret Japan-U.S. agreements about Okinawa. A guilty verdict against him for violating the National Civil Service Law was finalized in 1978, four years after he left the newspaper.
(This article is based on an interview by Yuri Imamura.)