Vice education minister Hiroyuki Yoshiie has threatened to take disciplinary action against the whistle-blower who divulged details of a document at the center of a scandal over the planned establishment of a veterinary medicine faculty.

Yoshiie issued the warning at the Upper House Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries meeting on June 13 in response to a question from Yuko Mori, a Liberal Party lawmaker.

The document in question shows that Cabinet Office officials were apparently pressuring education ministry officials to approve the establishment of the faculty as soon as possible so that it could be opened in April 2018 by Kake Educational Institution, whose head is a close friend of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Early this month, the whistle-blower told the media that the leaked document originated in the education ministry, despite an official denial, and it contained the words, “This is what the highest levels of the prime minister’s office are saying,” as had been previously reported, implying that pressure was being applied on education ministry officials to comply with the request.

Yoshiie said disciplinary action could be taken on the basis that the official could have violated the National Public Service Law, which makes keeping work-related secrets a duty for central government employees.

In the June 13 meeting, in light of the fact that whistle-blowers are legally protected against dismissal, demotion or other disciplinary measures, Mori said to Yoshiie: “I think that the official should be considered a whistle-blower in the public's interest. Are you aware that you have to protect the official’s rights?”

Yoshiie answered that, to protect the official in question, it would be necessary to prove that those implicated in the leaked document had broken laws.

Saying he was speaking in general terms, he said, “In the case that the acts did not violate any laws, there is a possibility that leaking information on publicly unknown administrative processes to outside people without obtaining permission of superiors becomes a violation of the National Public Service Law.”