Report: Japan Prevents Reporter From Leaving to Syria

Japan has seized the passport of a journalist planning to travel to Syria following the brutal killing of two Japanese hostages by the Islamic State group there, local media said Sunday.

It was the first time Tokyo had taken such a measure on the grounds it was needed to protect the passport-holder's life, the Asahi Shimbun and other news reports said.

They said the foreign ministry on Saturday confiscated the passport of Yuichi Sugimoto, a freelance photographer who had planned to enter Syria on February 27 to cover refugee camps among other places.

But the 58-year-old Japanese man, who has covered conflict zones in Iraq and Syria over the years, said he had no plans to enter areas controlled by Islamic State, Kyodo News reported.

"Tonight, an official with the foreign ministry's passport division came and took my passport," Sugimoto told the Asahi"What happens to my freedom to travel and freedom of the press?"

The passport confiscation came in the wake of the beheadings of journalist Kenji Goto and adventurer Haruna Yukawa by Islamic State extremists.

The initial ISIS video of the two hostages caused Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to leave a crucial Middle East tour in January, and launched a diplomatic effort between Japan and Jordan – from whom ISIS demanded the release of terrorists – to secure the journalists' freedom. Both Goto and Yukawa were brutally beheaded despite that effort. 

Abe appeared visibly agitated over the news, after ISIS released a video of Goto's beheading last week. 

"I am extremely angry about these heinous and despicable terrorist acts. We will never forgive terrorists," Abe told reporters in Tokyo. "We will cooperate with the international community to make them atone for their crimes." 

AFP contributed to this report. 


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