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Japan's digital minister denies deliberate disposal of meeting audio, says 'nothing to hide'

Digital Minister Takuya Hirai is seen during a press conference in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on Sept. 10, 2021. (Mainichi/Tsuyoshi Goto)

TOKYO -- Japan's Digital Minister Takuya Hirai told the press on Sept. 17 that numerous deleted recordings of online meetings with senior information technology officials had not been discarded deliberately and that there was "absolutely nothing to hide."

    The audio recordings were of conferences attended by Hirai when he was minister for digital transformation. Asked whether they were arbitrarily dumped, Hirai said, "It's nothing like that at all. There was absolutely nothing to hide."

    Regarding the audio, the Digital Agency previously told the Mainichi Shimbun that the "employee in charge of managing the meetings used them to keep a personal record," and claimed that they were considered private documents. However, at a press conference following a Sept. 17 Cabinet meeting, Hirai effectively corrected the agency's explanation by saying, "The data can be accessed within the organization, and are treated as official records."

    Yosuke Nishimuro, senior planning officer at the Digital Agency, said, "Even if they're used as personal records, anything contained in shared files is deemed an official document." He said that the audio recordings were deleted after being categorized as official records and as "daily operations communication," which can be discarded in under a year.

    (Japanese original by Ken Aoshima, Tokyo City News Department, and Tsuyoshi Goto, Business News Department)

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