Reporters Without Borders urges Japanese government to rescue journalist

PUBLISHED ON THURSDAY 22 JANUARY 2015

Reporters Without Borders calls on the Japanese government to do everything it can to obtain the release of Kenji Goto, a Japanese freelance journalist under threat of imminent execution by the Jihadi militant group Islamic State.

In a video posted online on 20 January, IS demanded 200 million dollars in ransom for the release of Goto and Haruna Yukawa, another Japanese citizen, threatening to kill them if the ransom was not paid in 72 hours.

Less than 24 hours is left before the deadline expires.

Goto left Japan on 22 October with the aim of filming IS fighters in Syria and was captured in November while trying to locate Yukawa. According to the Japanese media, he originally met Yukawa a few months before Yukawa was taken hostage in October.

We take note of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s pledge to do everything possible to obtain the release of the two hostages,” Reporters Without Borders programme director Lucie Morillon said.

It is vital that the Japanese government should seek the help of all the ‘strategic’ states in the region and their diplomatic networks. Efforts must be pooled to end Islamic State’s barbaric hostage industry. Following last year’s execution of journalists, we must accept that all options should be envisaged in order to save lives.”

Goto is one of the few freelance journalists to have provided Japanese TV viewers with video footage of the various bloody conflicts under way in the Middle East.

Syria is nowadays the world’s most dangerous country for journalists. In August 2012, Mika Yamamoto, a Japanese reporter for the Japan Press agency, was killed in Aleppo while covering fighting between government forces and rebels in the eastern district of Suleiman Al-Halabi.

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5 thoughts on “Reporters Without Borders urges Japanese government to rescue journalist”

  1. Mistakes and activist-journalism in this article:

    * “Abe’s administration seems more interested in saving face than saving lives”: Activist-Journalist cynical opinion; not backed up by any facts or statements or actions.

    * “Abe … vowed to rescue the two men”: No, he didn’t, the government vowed to do anything is could to help the hostages and secure their release, but the word ‘rescue’ was never mentioned. The word choice is important because rescue implies something more direct than negotiating for their release, and the Japanese constitution limits the Japanese government from doing very much that would be considered offensive military action (even rescuing Japanese) with force. The LDP constitutional amendment proposes adding a clause allowing it to rescue Japanese overseas.

    * “[The current party in power] also have announced intentions to abolish Article 9”: No they have not said they were going to ‘abolish’ it. A read of their proposed amendment shows that they keep Article 9’s renouncement of the ability to wage war and aggression. They are proposing to add additional paragraphs saying that it’s permissible to use the military for self-defense, and (only) with the international communities permission and cooperation, participate in multi-nation collective defense operations.

    * “… prose that does not even acknowledge that Japanese nationals were kidnapped.”: There was good reason not to acknowledge that at the time. The video released was doctored and was a digital composite, and communication to confirm the kidnapping was not possible.

    * “for both [Japan and ISIS], the men appear to be expendable.”: Activist journalists weasel words; the writers are trying to make you think that Japan was actually able to save these men. Terrorists are not reliable negotiating partners. The fact that they only gave 72 hours to get $200M and had not bothered to give exact times nor a way to reach them means that ISIS never intended to do anything but execute them; they set the parameters so that meeting the demands would be logistically impossible.

    To answer the journalists two questions:

    * “why did they hush it up?”

    1. Terrorism thrives on and breeds on broadcasting and communication. It relies on the press to spread its terror, as it spreads the terror beyond that of the direct and indirect victims. 2. Sensitive issues requiring intelligence are not always best solved by having everything out in the public. Going public immediately, while always good for journalist/newspapers’s bottom line, is not always the best answer to delicate situations. Especially for terrorism and hostage scenarios. Terrorism thrives and breeds (it uses it for recruitment) — or is sometimes spooked and makes drastic cut-your-losses actions — on publicity.

    * “Why have they spurned offers of help from individuals who might be able to negotiate with ISIS?”:

    There’s no guarantee that the third interpreter wouldn’t have been taken hostage and been executed as well. ISIS and other terrorists organizations are not known for being dependable and reliable; just because Tsuneoka was able to go meet with ISIS once does not mean he would be able to do it safely the next time. Indeed, Goto, who had traveled to the danger region before in the past, made the mistake of believing/hoping that because he had been there in the past, nothing bad would happen to him this time. He was wrong.

    Had Tsuneoka been allowed to “negotiate” with ISIS for their release, we might have ended up with Jihadi John and THREE Japanese in orange jumpsuits in front of a composite digital matte, not just two.

    1. Thank you for your input–although some of it seems to apologetic nitpicking. Please read 週刊ポスト today which has an excellent article which you should consider. Here’s the deal simplified: the two men were captured in August and October. MOFA knew about it and did nothing. They even discouraged SHUKAN POST from writing about it. Knowing that the two men were held hostage, Abe still went to Cairo and made a speech which deliberately or accidentally provoked the terrorists to retaliate and screwed up any chances of a possible quiet resolution. While MOFA had months to at least try and talk with ISIS, they did nothing. Abe’s already on the television talking about how this event shows the necessity of ‘collective self-defense.’ Goto certainly did believe that he could negotiate with the terrorists as he had in the past. That was his mistakes. The mistakes of the Abe administration are colossal–unless they are intentionally trying to provoke attacks on Japanese citizens to justify their agenda to re-arm Japan—an agenda they have made very clear.
      Even before it was well known that the Abe administration knew that ISIS had two hostages, JIJI PRESS summarised the screw-up very well:
      安倍首相演説に猛反発=日本を十字軍扱い-「イスラム国」
      【エルサレム時事】過激組織「イスラム国」とされる組織が20日公表した日本人2人の殺害を警告したビデオ声明は、安倍晋三首相が17日にカイロで行った中東政策に関する演説で過激主義を封じ込めるために「中庸が最善」と訴えたことに激しい反発を示した。警告は演説への報復として表明された形だ。
      声明は、日本が「十字軍」に加わろうとしていると指摘した。十字軍は、イスラム過激派がキリスト教徒中心の欧米諸国を批判する際に使用する表現で、日本を欧米と同様の「主敵」と位置付けようとしている。(2015/01/20-19:11)

  2. I’m wondering if Japan immigration expert Jake Adelstein has done any stories about treatment of asylum seekers in Japan? Any from Syria. Not even one?

    In recent months I’ve been receiving collect calls from a man who’s being held at the Central East Correctional Centre, also known as the Lindsay Superjail. He’s one of about 200 immigration detainees who began hunger strikes at the jail in September 2013 to protest lengthy detentions and seemingly endless immigration hearings. More than a year later, many of them are still in a maximum-security purgatory that sounds like hell on earth.

    The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) detains migrants who lack permanent immigration status. The agency says many are a public threat or might go into hiding unless they are locked up. Some of the detained are eventually deported to their home countries. Others cannot be sent back because their lives would be in danger, yet the government offers them no pathway to permanent status, even those who worked and paid taxes in Canada for years.

    The caller, whom we’ll call DH (he doesn’t want his real name published because he fears reprisals) immigrated to Canada from the Middle East more than 15 years ago. He was accepted here on a work permit in the service industry and moved to a city in Ontario.

    DH was preparing to apply for permanent residency in 2013 when immigration officials told him his permit was no longer valid. He was married to a Canadian citizen at the time and had never been required to renew his permit, when local police abruptly showed up at his door.

    “They came and picked me up. They said, ‘There’s a warrant for you, for being out of status.’ They locked me in [and] refused to give me legal aid.”

    (While Legal Aid Ontario could not comment specifically on DH’s situation, spokesperson Genevieve Oger says that access to aid depends upon an individual’s income as well as the merits of a case, or likelihood of a positive outcome.)

    DH says he told police he had simply been working and paying taxes. He also proudly stated to me that he has never collected welfare, EI or even been eligible for provincial health benefits. “I’ve managed to live all my life on my own income,” he says.

    That was 16 months ago. He spends most of his time with another inmate inside a small cell with a steel door, reading and writing. His meals are shoved though the door.

    “They say, ‘We don’t have enough staff,’ so you’re locked up sometimes three days [in a row].” Sometimes he’s let out of the cell for an hour and 45 minutes in a 24-hour period.

    DH’s only other human interactions are his monthly immigration hearings with officials from the Immigration and Refugee Board, who meet with him via Skype. They ask the same questions every time and offer no explanation for his indefinite incarceration.

    “Everyone says, ‘It’s not my fault. I’m not the one who detained you and keeps you here.'”

    It’s a familiar game that leaves detainees with only two choices: wait out the process or risk being sent back.

    DH says his immigration status doesn’t warrant such treatment. When I ask if he’s confined with men convicted of violence and even murder, he becomes animated. “I swear to god, there’s some killers here.”

    He says jail officials use intimidation tactics. One night during the hunger strike – DH drank only water for two weeks – he says guards came to his cell, handcuffed him and took him to “the hole,” solitary confinement.

    He was told he was being placed there so a nurse could better monitor his health. “They said, ‘You might die in a few days, so we’ll take you to the hospital to die.'” DH says he started eating right after that. I can hear him crying over the phone.

    He reports that some detainees are coerced into signing deportation documents.

    “They talk to people here, playing psychology, like ‘You are never going to get out of here no matter what you do.'” According to DH, immigration officials offered to help him access legal aid in exchange for signing travel documents that would allow him to be deported. He refused.

    I contacted the office of Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander several times to ask about DH’s claims. Alexander’s office never responded.

    Opposition NDP MP Andrew Cash says he’s very concerned about what he describes as a “tangled and distorted” immigration system. He disputes that many of the Lindsay detainees need to be in jail at all.

    “Individuals who don’t pose a threat to public safety absolutely should not be detained indefinitely,” says Cash, although he stops short of suggesting a maximum period for detentions. Many countries, including the United States, have a 90-day limit.

    Cash cites a recent Red Cross report that notes that detention is particularly harmful to “refugee claimants who have experienced armed conflict, torture and other traumatic experiences.” He says the government is exploiting the incarceration of such migrants for strictly political purposes. “The society we believe in is one that has compassion for the most marginalized,” says Cash.

    The immigration system, however, seems an intentional revolving door that allows the government to bring in labourers who will never be granted permanent status. In this context, CBSA’s detention and deportation of migrants, particularly those whose presumed crime is simply that they lack permanent status, seems intended to maintain a sense of fear and remind migrant workers of the precariousness of their situation.

    A representative of CBSA insists in an email response to my questions that detention of migrants “is applied as a last resort.” CBSA says it detains non-citizens who are “considered to be a danger to the public” or who are “unlikely to appear for examination, an admissibility hearing or removal from Canada.”

    These criteria give the agency the latitude to detain migrants like DH who have no criminal record.

    CBSA jails “higher-risk” detainees. The agency argues that “detention is an effective enforcement tool against those who seek to circumvent immigration processes and is preventive, not punitive.”

    According to 2013 CBSA figures, the agency spends an average of $239 a day to keep a detainee in prison. Those like DH who were once working and paying taxes are now costing taxpayers millions each year. And as they languish, they experience trauma, health problems and isolation from family and friends.

    Immigration lawyer Macdonald Scott, who’s represented some of the men in the Lindsay superjail, says the government is deporting people without giving them proper access to legal representation.

    “It’s almost impossible to get counsel in touch with them,” Scott says in a phone interview. “The chance that someone is going to be able to get in there and stop the removal is almost impossible.”

    Scott says the feds have even revoked migrants’ refugee status in order to deport them, and that the list of countries to which removal is prohibited is constantly changing.

    “What if they are actually in danger?” Scott asks of the many migrants who come from conflict zones. “Those lawful processes are there because CBSA often makes mistakes and removes people to places they shouldn’t be removed to.”

    Scott believes somewhere between half and two-thirds of the 200 migrants who went on hunger strike have since been deported, but confesses that “it’s pretty hard to keep track of them. I know of at least 15 who have been released.”

    A group called the End Immigration Detention Network, which consists of dozens of provincial and local community and legal groups, is demanding that the government release all migrants who have been held longer than 90 days, end maximum security detentions and overhaul the adjudication process that currently keeps migrants in a perpetual legal limbo.

    Through limited contact with advocacy groups like No One Is Illegal, DH and others have heard about public demonstrations and advocacy on their behalf.

    But DH says he’s disappointed that on the rare occasions he’s able to watch the news, he never hears concerned Canadians speaking out on the situation. “I would like the Canadian public to speak up. If I commit a crime, I believe there’s a punishment for everything we do. But if you don’t deserve to be in jail…. Super-maximum jail for someone like me?”

    DH is still waiting for a lifeline and keeping faith that the public will question detentions like his. During our most recent conversation, he reassures me, “I still love the Canadian people.” 3

    1. We don’t think Jake is an immigration expert. But thank you for calling our attention to the plight of immigrants in Canada.

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