Japan will ban the flying of drones over 15 U.S. military facilities next month without advance permission as a measure against potential terrorist acts, the Defense Ministry said Friday.
The 15 sites include Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo and the U.S. Marines’ Camp Schwab on Okinawa.
The restrictions, based on a law enacted last year, will be implemented on Sept. 6 following a notice period but have triggered concerns from media organizations over the potential disruption to news-gathering activities.
Drone pilots will be barred from flying within 300 meters of the boundary of the designated sites, including the Henoko coastal district in Nago, Okinawa, near Camp Schwab where landfill work is underway to replace the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma despite local opposition.
Police and the Self-Defense Forces are permitted to seize or destroy drones if they are flown near the designated zones without permission, and violators face up to a year in prison or a maximum fine of ¥500,000 ($4,700).
The U.S. sites also include Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture, the naval bases in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, and Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture.
The Defense Ministry also said Friday unauthorized drone flights above 14 Self-Defense Force facilities, including those in Asahikawa and Obihiro in Hokkaido as well as Nyutabaru Air Base in Miyazaki Prefecture, will be banned from Aug. 17.
When a law restricting drone flights was enacted last year, the Japan Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association, an independent organization run by mass media, said in a statement that it would “greatly limit news-gathering activities and infringe upon the right of the people to be informed.”