Japan confiscates passport of journalist planning to travel to Syria

Japan PM 'not going to forget' ISIS hostage killings
Japan PM 'not going to forget' ISIS hostage killings

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Japan PM 'not going to forget' ISIS hostage killings 05:32

Story highlights

  • Journalist says he was told he would be arrested if he didn't surrender passport
  • Japan says it has a duty to ensure the safety of its citizens abroad
  • ISIS has "warned it will try to kill more Japanese," government official says

Tokyo (CNN)After the deaths of two Japanese citizens at the hands of ISIS, Tokyo has stopped a journalist from traveling to Syria by confiscating his passport.

It's the first time the Japanese government has taken such a step. But the journalist, Yuichi Sugimoto, has suggested it's a breach of his rights.
    "Ministry officials and police officers told me that unless I returned my passport, I would be arrested," he told Japanese television.
    Sugimoto, a 58-year-old freelance photo journalist, said he challenged the officials over whether the confiscation conflicted with freedoms of expression, movement and the press.
    The Japanese Foreign Ministry said its officials, accompanied by police officers, visited Sugimoto's home in the city of Niigata on Saturday night. They asked him to surrender his passport, citing a provision in the passport law that refers to the protection of citizens' lives in emergencies.
    Japanese media reported that Sugimoto had been planning to leave Japan for Turkey later this month and then head across the border into Syria.

    Japan says it has duty to protect citizens

    The Foreign Ministry said that before Saturday's visit, officials had repeatedly asked Sugimoto to refrain from traveling to Syria, warning of the risk of capture by ISIS militants.
    "We understand that the freedom of reporting, news gathering and travel should be respected as much as possible," Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Monday. "But at the same time, the government has the extremely important duty to ensure the safety of Japanese citizens who travel or live abroad."
    Suga cited ISIS' recent brutal killings of two Japanese hostages it was holding, the journalist Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa, an aspiring security contractor.
    ISIS has "warned it will try to kill more Japanese," he said.
    The Islamic extremist group, which controls large areas of Syria and Iraq, has killed some of the other international hostages it has held, including two American journalists.