A Japanese journalist who has been kidnapped twice while working in conflict zones around the world has claimed the government has “effectively banned” him from travelling overseas.
Jumpei Yasuda, 45, who returned to Japan last year after more than three years held as a hostage by a Syrian terror group, has been trying to obtain a new passport for five months.
The freelance journalist applied for a passport in January, after his previous passport was taken while he was in captivity in Syria. He was freed in October 2018.
Yasuda wished to obtain a new passport in order to travel to India with his family in May and Europe in June, according to local media.
However, despite the passport issuing process normally taking from as little as one week, five months on he told media he has been informed that his application is still “under examination”.
Foreign ministry officials reportedly told him they were concerned he would violate the Passport Act, which stipulates a passport can be refused if a destination country denies entry to the applicant or if it is judged that they could damage national interest.
“I’m effectively banned from travelling overseas, as a decision to issue my passport has not been made for some time,” Yasuda told Kyodo news.
It was in June 2015 that Yasuda was kidnapped by a militant group, shortly after entering Syria by crossing the border with Turkey on foot, in order to report on the Islamic State group.
Yasuda was also held by an armed group in Iraq in 2004 while working in the country, before being released unhurt three days later.
The foreign ministry told The Telegraph it was unable to comment on the situation today but planned to comment next week.
Yasuda’s passport complaints came shortly after another Japanese journalist, who was kidnapped in Afghanistan in 2010, claimed the government had prevented him from being able to travel overseas.
Kosuke Tsuneoka was stopped at an airport in Tokyo in February while on his way to Yemen, before being told by officials his passport had been invalidated and was ordered to surrender it.
Tsuneoka, 49, reportedly launched legal proceedings in April against the foreign ministry last month, claiming that their actions deprived him of his right to travel and interfered with press freedom.
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Speaking in support of Tsuneoka’s legal action, Cédric Alviani, the head of Reporters Without Borders’ East Asia bureau, said: “To have a passport and to travel freely is a fundamental right in a democracy.”
He added the Japanese authorities should “show gratitude to journalists who risk their lives to inform the public, instead of punishing them”.
Four years ago, the Japanese government also took away the passport of photographer Yuichi Sugimoto when he tried to travel to Syria, after two Japanese citizens were killed by Islamic extremists in the region.