Ja­panese jour­nal­ist’s new pass­port bans travel to vi­o­lence-wracked Iraq, Syria

The China Post - - SPORTS -

An ex­pe­ri­enced war pho­tog­ra­pher has vowed to fight the Ja­panese gov­ern­ment af­ter be­ing is­sued a pass­port that specif­i­cally bars him from go­ing to vi­o­lencewracked Iraq and Syria.

Yuichi Sugi­moto, who has been re­port­ing from con­flict zones for 20 years, had his pass­port con­fis­cated in Fe­bru­ary af­ter he re­fused gov­ern­ment re­quests to aban­don a planned trip to a Syr­ian refugee camp.

The move came as Ja­pan was reel­ing from the bru­tal mur­ders of two cit­i­zens — war cor­re­spon­dent Kenji Goto and his ac­quain­tance Haruna Yukawa — by Is­lamist ex­trem­ists in Syria.

Sugi­moto, 58, re­ceived a new pass­port on Thurs­day, im­printed with the words: “This pass­port is valid for all coun­tries and ar­eas ex­cept Iraq and Syria.”

“Con­sid­er­ing what I have done in the past 20 years, I ab­so­lutely can­not ac­cept that I won’t be al­lowed to travel to Syria and Iraq and re­port from there,” he told lo­cal me­dia from Ni­igata, north­ern Ja­pan, where he lives.

“I want to con­tinue to de­mand a nor­mal pass­port that ev­ery or­di­nary cit­i­zen re­ceives,” he said.

The con­fis­ca­tion of Sugi­moto’s pass­port — which is per­mit­ted un­der Ja­panese law to pro­tect the life of the holder — was the first such in­stance against a jour­nal­ist since Ja­pan’s mod­ern con­sti­tu­tion came into force seven decades ago.

Sugi­moto said he had planned to visit Kobane, a Syr­ian town near the bor­der with Turkey, where Kur­dish forces have pushed Is­lamic State mil­i­tants out.

De­spite be­ing an ap­par­ent in­fringe­ment of jour­nal­is­tic free­doms, the case has made limited waves in Ja­pan, where there is lit­tle public sym­pa­thy for peo­ple seen as tak­ing de­lib­er­ate risks with their safety.

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