Protesters against the contentious secrecy law enacted exactly a year ago vowed Saturday to continue fighting to have it scrapped, amid concern the legislation will undermine the public’s right to know.
With the law that toughens penalties for leakers of state secrets set to take effect Wednesday, about 1,600 people gathered in Tokyo’s Hibiya Park before marching through the swanky Ginza district, while around 700 demonstrators took to the streets of Nagoya.
Lawyer Yuichi Kaido, an organizer of the Tokyo rally, said civic groups must remain vigilant as the secrecy law takes effect to ensure that activities at military bases and nuclear power plants can continue to be monitored.
“We will not cower and will keep fighting for the abolition of the law,” Kaido said.
The law allows for 10-year prison terms to be imposed for leaks of defense, foreign policy, counterespionage and counterterrorism information judged to have caused considerable damage to national security.
Shinji Suzuki, a 22-year-old university student, said he is worried that only a small number of young people took part in the protest.
“I’d like to tell my friends what I experienced at an occasion like this and continue the opposition movement,” he said.
In Nagoya, Takahiko Ido, 68, said he will not quit until the legislation is repealed.
“We should not make society dark by allowing the suppression of people’s right to know and freedom of speech,” he said.
Mami Nonogaki, 53, said the secrecy law should be discussed as a major issue in the Dec. 14 House of Representatives election.
In Hiroshima, lawyer Hajime Kawaguchi told a rally that when he asked the government to disclose information related to the Self-Defense Forces’ activities, only redacted documents were released.
“When the law takes effect, even these documents cannot be released, making it impossible for us to verify” the SDFs’ activities, he said. “It will be a dangerous situation because irresponsible decisions can be made with regard to SDF dispatches overseas.”
In Fukuoka, lawyer Akiko Maruyama pointed out that Japan’s embassies might limit the disclosure of information related to public safety in conflict areas, citing diplomatic confidentiality.
“The overseas activities (of Japanese civic groups) may be scaled down,” she said.