TOKYO (TR) – Junpei Yasuda, a Japanese journalist, has gone missing in Syria.
The freelance journalist, 41, has not been in contact with his close friends since the end of last month. Prolific on Twitter, he also stopped updating (@YASUDAjumpei) the microblogging site on June 20.
“I have been hiding my location in blogs and tweets up to now,” Yasuda wrote in his last tweet. “That is going to be difficult from now. I have thought about doing real time journalism, but it will be too dangerous from now on.”
At a news conference held on July 10, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told the press that he had no information about Yasuda’s whereabouts, going as far as to deny knowledge of his location.
Yasuda “was in the area where groups such as the Islamic State and Al Qaida are known to be fighting,” a person connected with the Japanese government is quoted by news site Nikkan Jiji.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that the government “has received information from numerous sources,” according to Nikkan Jiji. However, “we have no intelligence on him,” Suga added.
Yasuda entered Syria via Turkey in secret. Recently, the Japanese government has confiscated the passports of journalists attempting to enter Syria.
Earlier this year, Kenji Goto, another Japanese freelance journalist, was murdered by the Islamic State, an act that shook the pacifist nation.
Middle East troubles are no stranger to Yasuda. He was kidnapped in Iraq during 2004, and later released after a Sunni Group negotiated with his captors.
“I still believe it is the mission of journalists to go to Iraq and report the war…from the perspective of the local people,” Yasuda told the Japan Times after his 2004 release.
Earlier this year, Yasuda also made clear his willingness to take risks and refusal to cooperate with government requests to keep his location public. “Before I depart to do my work, and while I am on location, I do not want to make where I am going public,” he said, according to news site J-Cast. “I only tell the people I can trust my plans, for safety’s sake.”