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Wednesday, May 7, 2003

Lower House passes personal data bills

Staff writer

The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a package of controversial bills to protect personal information, amid criticism that the legislation could seriously hamper the freedom of the press.

News photo
Hiroyuki Hosoda, information technology policy minister, bows during a Lower House plenary session that voted on a bill to protect private information.

The bills, one of the main points on the ruling coalition's agenda during the current Diet session, was immediately sent to the House of Councilors, where a special committee is expected to be formed to deliberate the legislation.

The triumvirate hopes to have it enacted by the end of the month.

An earlier version of the legislation met with stiff opposition in the previous Diet session and was revised.

The government-sponsored bills are designed to clamp down on the collection and use of private data held at government bodies and private-sector corporations. The restrictions would not apply to such entities as media companies in the "reporting" business, academic researchers, religious groups and political groups, as well as individual professional writers.

But critics still argue that the government definition of "reporting" is vague and open for arbitrary interpretation, and that the legislation could discourage potential news sources and whistle-blowers from offering information.

Meanwhile, the Lower House also accelerated deliberations on another key set of bills Tuesday, as two opposition parties -- the Democratic Party of Japan and the Liberal Party -- explained wartime emergency legislation bills they separately submitted to counter bills put forward by the government.

Debate on the government's package of similar emergency legislation has already begun at the Lower House, and the focus of attention now moves to the extent to which the ruling coalition is willing to revise the government-sponsored bills in line with the opposition's counterproposals.

Taku Yamasaki, secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, said Tuesday that the ruling camp wants to have the government-sponsored bills pass the chamber by the end of the week. Diet sources said the tight schedule reflects an apparent bid to divide the DPJ, many of whose members are still reluctant to respond to revision talks with the ruling camp.

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The Japan Times

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