TOKYO, Dec. 11 (Xinhua) -- Ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) executive Shigeru Ishiba suggested Wednesday that the activities of the media could be restricted under the newly enacted state secrecy law, sparking outrage and further calls from civic groups, legal bodies, media organizations and regular citizens for the law to be scrapped or drastically changed.
Speaking at the Japan National Press Club, the LDP's secretary- general remarked that, "Based on the conventional wisdom, activities of the media would be somewhat restricted if their reports severely endanger national security."
Later in the day, Ishiba, himself a former defense minister, told reporters that he wished to retract his remarks and stated that journalists and reporters would not necessarily face punishment under the new law.
The new controversial law, which is opposed by more than 80 percent of Japanese citizens who believe the law will restrict the public's right to know and grant the government too much autonomy to designate and classify secrets, decrees that those leaking special state secrets could face harsh punishments, including 10- year prison terms, but the definition of a "state secret" remains hazy, political pundits here attest.
Despite Masako Mori, state minister in charge of the secrecy law, reassuring media organizations and journalists that regular news gathering activities would not be punished and stating that the law will take into consideration the freedom of the press, concerns are rife in opposition parties about the ruling LDP-led coalition's strong-arming of the bill through both houses of parliament, including its eleventh-hour enactment into law by the upper house last Friday.
Ishiba conceded that he himself is not clear on the details of the laws' stipulation of state secrets and how the law's text can be interpreted, stating that he believes the law does indeed aim to inhibit and restrict the activities of the media, although he said legal bodies would make the final adjudication when it came to handing down judgments to those believed to have leaked or propagated sensitive leaks publicly.
Wednesday marks the second time of late that Ishiba has found himself in hot water over comments made connected to the new law, and was forced to retract remarks he made last week likening demonstrations against the secrecy bill by civic groups around the Diet building to "terrorism."
"It seemed to me that taking a strategy that puts people in awe shares something in common with an act of terrorism, which goes against the idea of democracy," Ishiba wrote on his blog.
He later backtracked on his comments stating, "I apologize for my shortcomings as a responsible LDP official," although maintained that the actions of the demonstrators were " undemocratic," - a comment viewed as confusingly ironic by leaders of the civic groups and the public at large, who were and continue to protest the bill, believing that it undermines their democratic right to know and the nation's fundamental and constitutional democratic principles.
Ishiba's latest gaffe comes at a time when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has successfully steamrolled the secrecy bill through parliament against opposition parties' and the public's wishes, with the bill forming the legal framework for Abe's newly launched National Security Council (NSC) that is, as of Wednesday, embarking on a mid-to-long-term plan to boost military spending on next-generation hardware, while overhauling the Self-Defense Forces' personnel in a manner that has been described by military experts as a step towards "battle readiness."
But while the prime minister has said the move is underpinned by a "pacifism through international cooperation" philosophy, Abe and his Cabinet took another controversial step Wednesday to revise the Organized Crime Offenses Law, that will seek to change the current law to include punishing those involved in serious crime conspiracy, even if they did not commit the crime themselves.
Previous LDP administrations have, on numerous occasions, tried to have the organized crime law enacted but failed due to harsh political and public opposition.Concerns are now rife in political and public circles that the LDP eyeing yet another controversial law, is evidence that Abe is acting in a highly autocratic manner, as the ruling coalition can browbeat smaller opposition parties in parliament at will.
Such is the concern, that a coterie of ex-Your Party lawmakers are eyeing the formation of a new opposition party, possibly in collaboration with the Japan Restoration Party, to create a political entity larger than the now main opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) to better stand against Abe and to prevent the ruling coalition from acting with almost complete impunity and not in the best interests of the electorate and Japanese citizens.