The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan (FCCJ) criticized a Japanese government-submitted bill to impose tougher penalties on national secret leakers on Monday, local media reported. The institution said in a statement that the bill is a "threat to both journalism and to the democratic future of the Japanese nation," urging Japan's parliament to reject the bill in total or redraft it substantially so that it ceases to pose the threat. "It is at the very heart of investigative journalism in open societies to uncover secrets and to inform the people about the activities of government," the FCCJ President Lucy Birmingham said in the statement, contending that such journalism "is not a crime, but rather a crucial part of the checks-and-balances that go hand- in-hand with democracy." The House of Representatives of Japan has passed a bill to set up a U.S.-style National Security Council (NSC) on Nov. 7. To make full use of the NSC, the government is also seeking passage of another bill to toughen penalties for leakers of "special secrets, " or sensitive information related to diplomacy, defense, terrorism and espionage. According the bill, which the government hopes to pass during the current extraordinary Diet session through Dec. 6, people suspected to leak "special secrets" will face up to 10 years in prison.