Japan starts enforcing secrecy law

A civic group member holds a picture of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe morphed with the image of former German chancellor Adolf Hitler during a rally to protest against a controversial new state secrets bill in front of the National Diet in Tokyo on December 6, 2013. A controversial state secrets bill became law in Japan Friday night despite objections from a broadening coalition who say the legislation is being rushed through parliament. (Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images)
A civic group member holds a picture of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe morphed with the image of former German chancellor Adolf Hitler during a rally to protest against a controversial new state secrets bill in front of the National Diet in Tokyo on December 6, 2013. A controversial state secrets bill became law in Japan Friday night despite objections from a broadening coalition who say the legislation is being rushed through parliament. (Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images)

Defying widespread opposition, Japan has brought into force a law enabling it to imprison those leaking sensitive information.

The law took effect on Wednesday, empowering Tokyo to call what it considers to be highly-sensitive information in the areas of diplomacy, defense, counterterrorism, and counterespionage as “special secrets.”

Those found guilty of leaking sensitive information could face up to 10 years in prison, compared to the one-year sentence that whistleblowers have faced until now.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says the law is necessary to enable Japan to share intelligence with its allies, notably the United States.

France-based NGO, Reporters Without Borders, has called the law “an unprecedented threat to freedom of information.”

Also on Wednesday, several hundreds gathered near Abe’s office in protest.

“This terrible law must be revoked, but at least if we keep on protesting the government won’t be able to do whatever it wants,” said Yumi Nakagomi, one protester.

Critics also say the law was adopted without sufficient consultation with legislators, citizens groups, and foreign experts.

“It is us, not a government, that decide what constitutes secrets,” said Masakatsu Adachi, a professor of criminal law at Kanto Gakuin University.

HN/HSN/SS HaTTiP