IFJ calls for release of Japanese journalist in Syria

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) remains gravely concerned for the safety of a Japanese journalist held captive by the Islamic State militant group in Syria. Kenji Goto and another Japanese citizen were shown in a video released by IS on Tuesday, January 20, with the group demanding a US$200million ransom within 72 hours.

The IFJ represents 600,000 journalists in 134 countries, including Japan where it has three affiliates – Japan Federation of Newspaper Workers’ Union, Shimbunroren; Japan Broadcasting Labour Union, Nipporo; and Japan Federation of Commercial Broadcast Workers’ Union, Minpororen.

The video shows freelance journalist Kenji Goto together with another Japanese citizen Haruna Yukawa. It is filmed in the same style of the videos released in 2014, showing the murders of American freelance journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, said this week that “their lives are the top priority” and vowed to save them. The hostage video was released after Japan announced US$200million in humanitarian assistance for countries in the region.

Syria remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists with 12 journalists killed last year, according to the IFJ killed list.  Since the Syrian conflict began a reported 80 journalists have been abducted and 20 remain missing. 

Goto is a freelance journalist and founder of video production company, Independent Press, an online new portal reporting on conflict, refugee populations and poverty. Goto began reporting on Syria four years ago when the conflict broke out.

Mr Yoshi Okuda, a member of Nipporo’s union who regularly campaigns for the country’s freelancers has travelled to IFJ Brussels this week to advocate on the freelancer’s case.

The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan said: “Kenji Goto, is a journalist whose career has been dedicated to highlighting humanitarian themes such as the promotion of peace, aid for refugees, and an end to poverty. His very presence in that region is testament to the fact that he is a special kind of Japanese whose sincerity and bravery must be respected.” The Mass media, Information and Culture Union, which IFJ affiliate Shimbunroren is a core member, declared the act despicable and have called for the immediate release of the two hostages.

According to reports, Goto went missing in mid-October after he entered Syria to secure the release of Haruna Yukawa after they struck up a friendship in April last year. His family became aware of his capture when he didn’t return from Syria in October. In November, his wife received emails demanding a one billion yen (US$8.5million) ransom from an alleged IS member

The IFJ Asia Pacific acting director Jane Worthington said: “This is a gravely concerning situation. The use of journalists as hostages and as pawns in greater power struggles is becoming a concerning pattern across the globe. Now more than ever, the world has united in condemning threats and attempts to silence freedom of expression across the world.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0950 

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