“Otherwise, blanket prohibitions or blanket secrecy is, again, the violation of the right to access information. This has been kept not only by the doctrine of the UN Human Rights Committee in its decisions, but also by regional courts like European court of human rights or inter American court of human rights in the inter-American system. So it is very clearly defined.”


Video Message from Mr. Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur for the Freedom of Expression.

(10 March 2014, Geneva, Recorded and transcribed by Sanae Fujita)

Mr. Frank La Rue Profile 

My Name is Frank La Rue, and I am the Special Rapporteur for the Freedom of Expression of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations.

I would like to send this message of support to the people of Japan, to the Japan Bar Association, to the human rights organisations, and to all the individuals who have been working for transparency, anti- secrecy (?), and for access to information in Japan, which I think is essential.

I always tell everyone that freedom of expression is the right we exercise in two directions. First, it is to have access to information of any type, whether be scientific, cultural, investigative or, specially, public information. And in second level, it is the right to disseminate and impart ideas, sending information to all through any means possible. But access to information and freedom of expression have something in between which is the right to freedom of opinion and freedom of thought.

We build our thinking; we build our mind and opinions with the access to information. This is what we use to disseminate our position. So this is why access to information is so important, because, in reality, with access to information, how we will build possibility of making informed decisions at any given time. Access to information, for me, is crucial element, for instance, for citizenship for participation of citizen of democracy. And this is valid for transparency, to combat corruption, but also valid just for knowing what are the policies.

When people are talking about public information and access to information, people normally think of financial information or budget. This is true but it is not only that.  It is also access to information on the way the decisions have been made, political decisions, how public policies are established, why was that established, who made the decisions, is there any evaluation of process or not. All these are elements any democratic society that people have the right to know. This is what we are defending.

This is why secrecy laws are, in a way, weakening democracy. Secrecy should be a tradition of the past. Before, secrecy was supposedly to protect those who in power, because power came from God to the emperor, and from the emperor to the people. And no one had right to question or ask. This was the same way in Japan, Europe with Kings.

But when you build democratic system, (it is) the other way around. Authority comes from people who delegate to elected officials. And authority means trust. People have to trust their elected officials or appointed officials. And trust means transparency. People have the right to know what has been done, who made the decisions, why those decisions were made. This is why secrecy has no place anymore.

Of course, there are exceptions. There are exceptions to protect other individuals’ rights or exceptions for national security for some particular moments, or there are exception for period of investigation of criminal cases.

But those are just a certain brief period of time. But general norm should be openness which anyone should be able to access information especially the journalist. Because journalists can have investigated journalism, transfer in an organised way to the broad public.

So, here is what I think, we have to recognise public information is a common good. It belongs to people. It does not belong to anyone that can put it into the pocket and hide it. And this is where we insist secrecy go against to the interest of the people, secrecy goes against democracy; anti-democratic, by essence.

So when we build democracy, we build in the democracy or the access to information laws. There might be exception but least possible exception. And those exceptions have to go with rule of three; they have to be established by law, they have to be necessary to prevent harm or another violation of human rights, and have to be proportional and for the certain period of time just for the protection of the right.

Otherwise, blanket prohibitions or blanket secrecy is, again, the violation of the right to access information. This has been kept not only by the doctrine of the UN Human Rights Committee in its decisions, but also by regional courts like European court of human rights or inter American court of human rights in the inter-American system. So it is very clearly defined.

This is why I really congratulate the work that you are all doing in Japan to eradicate secrecy and to maintain access to information and to reach absolute transparency, because I think you are doing the future your country a favour. Only the people that can have full access that know how things happen, why will be the people that fully participate the citizens can truly build democratic system in the future. Congratulations.



国連 表現の自由に関する特別報告者、フランク・ラ・ルー氏のビデオメッセージ

(2014年3月10日、ジュネーブ   記録及び文字化:藤田早苗)