(Reuters) – Waving banners and beating drums, hundreds of Japanese took to the streets of Tokyo to protest a strict new state-secrets law taking effect on Wednesday that critics charge will help conceal government misdeeds and limit press freedom.
The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says the law, which was passed a year ago amid protests, is essential to convince allies led by the United States to share intelligence with Japan.
Critics counter that whistleblowing on government misdeeds will be chilled. Reporters Without Borders has called the law “an unprecedented threat to freedom of information”.
“This law will restrict the peoples’ right to know,” said Tomoki Hiyama, one of about 800 people braving frigid winds to gather in the shadow of Japan’s parliament on Tuesday.
“It’s full of ambiguity and will take us back to the ‘public peace and order’ controls of World War Two.”
The law mandates prison terms of up to 10 years for public servants or others leaking state secrets, while journalists and others who encourage such leaks could be imprisoned for five years. Kyodo news agency said that some 460,000 documents would be affected immediately.