Japan reporter sues government after passport is invalidated

TOKYO — A Japanese journalist known for covering war zones sued the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday after it invalidated his passport and demanded he surrender it, saying it deprived him of his right to travel and restricted press freedom.

Kosuke Tsuneoka was stopped at Tokyo's Haneda airport in February on his way to Yemen to report on the country's conflict and humanitarian crisis. He was told his passport had been invalidated and was ordered to immediately surrender it.

Tsuneoka is a freelance journalist who has reported from conflict zones in the Middle East and Africa for about two decades, and was held captive for five months in Afghanistan in 2010.

He said he filed the lawsuit because of his concern that the government may be expanding its control over citizens. He said a growing number of journalists have been warned or put under pressure, and as a result Japanese media reports from areas of conflict have decreased significantly, leaving Japan out of touch with the rest of the world.

"I decided to go to court not because of my own personal interest," Tsuneoka told reporters after filing the suit at Tokyo District Court. "Rather, I worry about the direction Japan seems to be heading, as it seems to be losing its perspective on global issues, and I wanted to put the brakes on this somehow."

The Foreign Ministry routinely reminds Japanese media to avoid entering conflict zones. Journalists who have been taken hostage or become embroiled in problems have faced criticism as troublemakers who deserve punishment. People who act independently in Japan are often considered selfish and receive little sympathy.

Yasuhiko Tajima, a Sophia University professor of media and law, said Tsuneoka's case involves a threat to basic rights and democracy. "The case affects the foundation of the freedom of expression and of the press, as well as the right to know," Tajima said.

He said the government's arbitrary use of restraint could also affect members of non-profit organizations and those in medical service. "This is something of great concern."

In January, before the Feb. 2 passport problem, Tsuneoka was denied entry to Oman, where he planned to transit on an earlier planned trip to Yemen. Despite having obtained an e-visa, he was forced to return to Tokyo and rescheduled his trip via Sudan, he said.

Tsuneoka said the Foreign Ministry should have warned him earlier if they knew about his plans.

In 2015, Japan took the passport of a Syria-bound Japanese photographer after two Japanese citizens were killed by Islamic extremists there, prompting a government travel warning.

___

Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/mariyamaguchi

You may also like these

Western brand, Chinese characteristics: Club Med...

Aug 23, 2017

A Club Med resort in Guilin, China, bows to Chinese tastes with a contemplative and serene vibe

New rules, tech are dimming Hong Kong's signature...

Aug 31, 2017

Neon signs advertising shops and nightclubs gave Hong Kong a signature look to match its economic...

AP PHOTOS: Appeasing restless ghosts in Hong Kong

Sep 5, 2017

AP PHOTOS: Appeasing restless ghosts in Hong Kong in raucous celebrations marked by feasts and music

The Latest: Trump vows to change 'one-side and...

Nov 9, 2017

President Donald Trump is vowing to change "one-sided and unfair" trade relations with China but...

China orders Marriott to suspend website, app in...

Jan 12, 2018

Regulators have ordered the Marriott hotel chain to close its China-based website and app for one...

Sign up now!

About Us

Gempak Media delivers the most talked and gempak stories on the Internet to you. Be the first to know about the latest news and don’t forget to share it around.

Contact us: sales[at]gempakmedia.com

Subscribe Now!