Abe's popularity takes a hit over secrecy Bill

Abe's popularity takes a hit over secrecy Bill

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is taking a beating in popular support as opposition grows against the Japanese government's rushed attempt to enact a law that will see those who leak government information classified as secret face jail terms of up to 10 years.

From a record high of 76 per cent in April, the latest survey by the influential Asahi Shimbun newspaper showed the approval rating for Mr Abe's Cabinet now standing at 49 per cent, the first time it has dropped below 50 per cent since he assumed power last December.

In the survey, 50 per cent of respondents said they opposed the state secrecy Bill, with only 25 per cent supporting it.

Last Tuesday, Japan's Lower House approved the Bill, after three weeks, or only 46 hours of debate that critics had slammed as insufficient for the impact it will have. This is just a month after the Cabinet approved the Bill.

Under the Bill, officials who leak information face 10 years' jail, compared with the one year now. Journalists who obtain information in an "inappropriate" way face five years' imprisonment, although during the debate in the Lower House, it was not made clear what this meant.

Mr Abe has described the state secrecy Bill as essential towards ensuring that Japan can share sensitive information with the US and its allies.

While the government has canvassed public comments with regard to the Bill, the window for sending them in was only two weeks.

At the only public hearing held in Fukushima on Nov 25, all seven local officials invited to the hearing opposed the Bill.

The resistance is widespread, with opposition MPs, the media, civil groups, lawyers and labour unions, among others, speaking out against the Bill, demanding that it be discussed at length or even dropped.

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