On April 24, Japanese war correspondent Kosuke Tsuneoka, 49, took legal action against the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to have his passport reinstated. In February, Tsuneoka arrived at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport prior to a flight to Yemen to find that his passport had been revoked under a regulation designed to prevent journalists from traveling to conflict zones. Tsuneoka has covered the Middle East and Africa for 20 years and was held hostage in Afghanistan for five months in 2010.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Japanese authorities to immediately renew Tsuneoka’s passport and to abolish the legal dispositions that allow such an abusive practice. “To have a passport and to travel freely is a fundamental right in a democracy,” said Cédric Alviani, the head of RSF’s East Asia bureau, who called on Japanese authorities to “show gratitude to journalists who risk their lives to inform the public, instead of punishing them.”
In 2015, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs suspended freelance photographer Yuichi Sugimoto’s passport when he tried to travel to Syria to cover freelance journalist Kenji Goto’s murder by Islamic State. He similarly filed a lawsuit, which was dismissed in 2017.
In recent years, a fraction of the Japanese population have accused war correspondents of being irresponsible by traveling to regions where they risk being kidnapped, which they see as a source of embarrassment for the country. Journalist Jumpei Yasuda, who was held hostage in Syria for three years, was made to apologise upon his release last October.
Japan is ranked 67th out of 180 in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index.