More than 1,200 journalists, academics, authors, filmmakers and musicians, as well as another roughly 1,500 members of the public, have put their names to an online petition in support of freedom of expression amid concern about disturbing levels of self-censorship by media, lawmakers and society over the Islamic State hostage crisis and the government's handling of it.

Drafted by a New York-based documentary filmmaker, the statement condemns the murders of captives Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto, but it says an atmosphere of self-restraint remains in the Diet, the mass media and Japanese society at large, and the government is not being held to account for its actions.

While not citing specific examples, the statement says anyone questioning the decisions Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Cabinet took are told: " 'If you criticize the government now, you're just aiding the terrorists,' 'If you think respect of human life is most important, you mustn't do things that obstruct the government,' and 'At such extreme times, all Japanese should unite and support the government.' "