State secrets law could constrain researchers

The spirit of Japan’s new state secrets law may officially be about protecting national security by restricting the release of information about defence and diplomacy, or keeping information needed to prevent terrorist attacks and “specified harmful activities” confidential. However, lawyers warn the letter of the law, which took effect on 10 December, and especially the required background checks on those handling state secrets, could impact a broad range of academic research as well, writes Eric Johnston for The Japan Times.

The government had named 382 subject areas as state secrets requiring protection under the law. Kyoto-based lawyer Akitoshi Ozaki, who has written about the potential problems scientific researchers face under the new law, said the most basic problem is that there is no person or organ with strong independent legal authority to oversee what kinds of scientific research should and should not be targeted for confidentiality.

Although the Diet legislature was tasked with creating bodies that would review the validity of information designated as state secrets last year, political and bureaucratic wrangling meant the law went into force without such oversight.
Full report on The Japan Times site