Rest in Peace, Kenji Goto. A journalist who fought for peace & was killed in war.

Kenji Goto, a freelance journalist, known for his dedicated reporting on the atrocities of war and humanitarian activities, was killed by the Islamic State (ISIS) circa February 1st, 2015 (Japan Standard Time). He wasn’t a war reporter; he was an anti-war reporter. He shared his knowledge with the world, educating others and learning from them as well.

According to The Guardian: “Kenji tweeted about many things. But one tweet has captured imaginations, seeming to sum up the character of the journalist who was beheaded by Islamic State (Isis) extremists after a months-long hostage ordeal.

The viral tweet is from 7 September 2010: “Closing my eyes and holding still. It’s the end if I get mad or scream. It’s close to a prayer. Hate is not for humans. Judgment lies with God. That’s what I learned from my Arabic brothers and sisters.”

It had 20,000 retweets on Goto’s Twitter account by Monday, and was being repeated by the minute.”

 7 September 2010: “Closing my eyes and holding still. It’s the end if I get mad or scream. It’s close to a prayer. Hate is not for humans. Judgment lies with God. That’s what I learned from my Arabic brothers and sisters.”
7 September 2010: “Closing my eyes and holding still. It’s the end if I get mad or scream. It’s close to a prayer. Hate is not for humans. Judgment lies with God. That’s what I learned from my Arabic brothers and sisters.”

 

All who know him, or know of him, mourn his loss and wish to express our condolences to his family. He went to Syria to report on the real state of affairs there and to try and help his troubled comrade, Haruna Yukawa, get free from the clutches of ISIS. He wasn’t a reckless man, he was a journalist doing what we are supposed to do, report the truth, even in dangerous situations. Trying to save his wayward friend wasn’t his duty as a journalist, but he must have felt it was his duty as a human being. He had noble intentions. His long-time friend and fellow journalist, Toshi Maeda, met Goto two hours before he left on his fatal trip. He was supposed to be back in a week.  Maeda told us, “He has been called a war reporter–he wasn’t, he was an anti-war reporter. He came and lectured at my class at Komazawa University on the importance of maintaining a compassionate perspective when reporting the news and the class was mesmerized by him. He had an immensely positive impact. He was inspirational.”

Kenji Goto’s lecture is still inspirational: War Journalist’ Advocates Human Side of Journalism

Maeda said that Goto had been captured in Syria before; he had managed to persuade his captors to let him go. They recognized he meant no harm and was a force for good. Not this time.

Journalist and humanitarian, Kenji Goto worked to educate and better the lives of people wherever he worked. Humanitarian journalism.
Journalist and humanitarian, Kenji Goto worked to educate and better the lives of people wherever he worked. Humanitarian journalism.

In the end, it seems, he ended up as a pawn between ruthless terrorists and ruthless politicians hell-bent on scoring political capital. We hope that his death does not serve to become a pretext for the thing he most opposed in his life as a journalist–the senseless killing and loss of life inherent in all warfare. As one of his close friends said so eloquently, “Let’s remember Kenji as he lived, not as he died.”

ご愁傷様です。ご冥福を祈ります。

The Committee To Protect Journalists issued a statement condemning his death on the day the video of his execution was released. We’ve reprinted it below.

New York, January 31, 2015–The Islamic State militant group released a video Saturday purporting to show the murder of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, according to news reports. Japanese authorities have not yet verified the footage is authentic, according to news reports. Goto, a well-respected journalist who reported primarily on humanitarian issues, was kidnapped in Syria in October 2014, according to news reports.

“Islamic State militants have proven they do not care if you are a journalist from Syria, from the West or from the East. They only care about expanding their reign of terror,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, Sherif Mansour. “We are deeply concerned about the safety of all journalists in territory controlled by the militants–and about the information vacuum that has resulted from their bloody, intimidatory tactics.”

Syria has been the most dangerous country in the world for journalists for more than three years. At least 80 journalists have been killed covering the conflict, including one who died over the border in Lebanon. More than 90 journalists have been kidnapped in Syria. Because some abductions are not publicized it is difficult to determine the exact number. CPJ estimates that approximately 20 journalists are currently missing in Syria, the majority of whom are Syrian and believed held by the Islamic State.

Mrs. Rinko Goto releases a statement on behalf of husband and missing pilot.

After the ISIS hostage deadline ended yesterday, the wife of Kenji Goto, made a statement today via a NGO, pleading for his life and the life of the Jordanian pilot who plays a critical role in the hostage negotiations. The Jordanians refuse to make a deal with ISIS, who hold both Goto and a beloved Jordanian pilot as hostages, until they have proof of life for the pilot.

Kenji Goto, freelance journalist captured by ISIS.
Kenji Goto, freelance journalist captured by ISIS.

On Thursday 29th, at 1:30 PM UK time, Mrs. Rinko Goto gave her first statement on the case to the Rory Peck Trust, an international NPO that supports freelance journalists and their families in times of crisis. She pleaded for the release of her husband and in crisp British English also said that she was very fond of Jordan where she used to live and was praying for the life of the Jordanian pilot, Lt. Mu’ath al-Kaseasbeh as well.

The Rory Peck Trust office in London received a Skype call from Mrs. Goto, Kenji Goto’s wife, through people acting on her behalf. Mrs. Goto said she didn’t want her pictures to be published and requested all media organizations to publish her statement in full and without edits.

“It may be Rinko’s final message to her husband and she asked that it be printed verbatim, if possible, ” said Tina Carr, Director of the Rory Peck Trust, speaking to The Daily Beast. She said that the group had worked with Kenji Goto since 2010 and he dwas widely admired in the freelance world for his hard work and kind spirit. However, while Rory Peck Trust is providing support to the family they are taking no part in the negotiations to secure his release.

There are some questions as to the goals of ISIS in almost forcing Mrs. Goto to make a statement but in consideration of her wishes and what it tells us about Kenji Goto and his family, we have decided to post it.

The statement, with audio, is as follows: urgent plea from wife of Kenji Goto.

****

 My name is Rinko. I am the wife of Kenji Goto, the journalist who is being held by a group in Syria. He was taken from me on 25 October 2014, and since then I have been working tirelessly behind the scenes for his release.

I have not spoken out until now as I have been trying to protect my children and family from the media attention Kenji’s plight has created around the world.

My husband and I have two very young daughters. Our baby girl was only three weeks old when Kenji left. I hope our oldest daughter, who is just two, will get to see her father again. I want them both to grow up knowing their father.

My husband is a good and honest man who went to Syria to show the plight of those who suffer. I believe that Kenji may have also been trying to find out about  Haruna Yukawa’s situation. I was extremely saddened by the death of Haruna and my thoughts go out to his family. I know all too well what they are going through.

I became aware that Kenji was in trouble on 2 December when I received an email from the group holding Kenji.

On 20 January I saw the video demand for $200m for the lives of Haruna Yukawa and Kenji. Since then, there have been several emails between the group and me as I have fought to save his life.

In the past 20 hours the kidnappers have sent me what appears to be their latest and final demand:

Rinko, 


YOU MUST PUBLICISE AND EXPOSE THIS MESSAGE TO THE WORLD MEDIA NOW! OTHERWISE KENJI WILL BE NEXT!


If Sajida is not on the Turkish border ready for the exchange for Kenji by Thursday 29th Jan at sunset, The Jordanian pilot will be executed immediately!


I fear that this is the last chance for my husband and we now have only a few hours left to secure his release and the life of Lt. Mu’ath al-Kaseasbeh. I beg the Jordanian and Japanese Government to understand that the fates of both men are in their hands.

I thank the Governments of Jordan and Japan for all their efforts. I thank the people of Jordan and Japan for their compassion. My family was based in Jordan when I was young, and I went to school in Amman until I was 12 years old, so I have great affection and fond memories of Jordan and its people.

Lastly I thank my family, friends and Kenji’s colleges for the support they have shown my daughters and me over the last 3 months.

I pray for the lives of my husband and the Jordanian pilot Lt. Mu’ath al-Kaseasbeh.

Rinko

 

 

 

The full statement of Mrs. Rinko Goto is here: An urgent plea from the wife of Kenji Goto

The ISIS Crisis: Negotiations Stall as Jordan Demands ‘Proof of Life’

January 30th 3:45 am Tokyo, Japan

Kenji Goto, freelance journalist captured by ISIS.
Kenji Goto, freelance journalist captured by ISIS last October. The terrorist group is offering to possibly exchange him for the release of a female would-be suicide bomber but the deal has become increasingly complicated.

As the deadline for the exchange of prisoners has now passed, the fate of Japanese reporter Kenji Goto, 47, believed to be held by ISIS, might be reaching a crucial stage. Thursday morning, a new audio message was posted online by the Islamist group, with what appears to be Kenji Goto addressing the Jordanian authorities. The audio message warned that the Jordanian fighter jet pilot captured by ISIS in December last year will be killed if Jordan doesn’t release the Iraqi woman arrested in the Jordanian capital in 2005 for involvement in a suicide attack against a hotel that killed 60 people. “If Sajida al-Rishawi is not ready for exchange for my life at the Turkish border by Thursday sunset 29th of January Mosul time, the Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh will be killed immediately,” said the recorded message.

Jordan offered to exchange the Iraqi suicide bomber for the Jordanian pilot on Wednesday. But nothing was mentioned about the Japanese hostage. As Jordan has been leading the negotiations for the release of the Japanese and Jordanian hostages, Japan has only been observing and analyzing the authenticity of the audio files. “It is his voice, without a doubt,” Junko Ishido, the mother of the Japanese hostage said. Japan seemingly lost in translation, keeps denying having any confirmation about the safety of Goto. “The only thing I can say is that the Japan and Jordan have trustful relations”, Japan’s top government spokesman said after refraining from discussing any details.

The Jordanian Foreign Minister, Mr. Nasser S, Judeh, tweeted on Wednesday that the information about Jordan releasing the Iraqi woman is not true, “We have said from the beginning that her release will depend on the release of our Jordanian son.” He also tweeted that the Jordanian request for proof that al-Kasaebeh is safe and well—proof of life–was unanswered. The life and death of Goto seemed to be tied to the exchange of the Jordanian pilot against the Iraqi woman, but it is unclear at this point where Goto stands. In a press conference in Amman on Thursday, before the deadline for the exchange of prisoners, Jordan’s media affairs minister said the government has not released death-row inmate Sajida al-Rishawi. He said Jordan continues to coordinate with Japan for the release of the Japanese journalist.

The minister of state for media affairs and communications, Mohammad al-Momani, spoke to reporters on Thursday after meeting with Jordanian leaders.

Meanwhile, on January 29th at 1:30 pm London time, Rinko Goto, the wife of Kenji Goto, released an impassioned plea for the life of her husband and the life of the captured Jordanian pilot, via the Rory Peck Trust, which supports freelance journalists all over the world and their families in times of crisis. Kenji Goto has worked with the group since 2010.

The full statement of Mrs. Rinko Goto is here: An urgent plea from the wife of Kenji Goto

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.

Japan’s MOFA threatens ISIS with “strong indignation” if (hypothetical) hostages executed

January 22nd, Last week, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged $200 million in non-military assistance to support countries affected by the campaign against ISIS during an ongoing six-day Middle East tour. Today (January 20th Japan time), The Islamic State released a video threatening to kill two Japanese hostages, the journalist Kenji Goto, and another self-proclaimed mercenary, unless they receive a $200 million ransom in the next 72 hours.

The hawkish prime minister and his cabinet who have moved forward to remilitarize Japan under the guise of “collective self defense” are now in the difficult position of whether to negotiate with terrorists or to let two Japanese citizens be killed. Neither decision will have a happy outcome. For the rest of the story, see ISIS Pisses Off Pacifist Japan.

Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA)ーー外務省ーー, also lovingly known as MOFO by the foreign and Japanese press for their frustrating non-response to questions, has released an official statement which is a masterpiece of obfuscation and strange English. What makes the announcement particulary surreal and disingenuous is that MOFA and the Japanese government have known that Kenji Goto was being held for a ransom of 10 million dollars since November of last year. 

The Japanese government did not tell this to the press or the public. Why? The reasons are unclear.

Here is the statement. Italics added for sarcastic purposes.

For the latest late disinformation, in nearly incomprehensibly English, stay tuned to the MOFA Facebook page.

Message from Japan regarding the incident on warning of Japanese nationals’ execution.

January 20th 10:49 pm
On 20th January, just before 1500 (JST), a video clip, which seemed to have been produced by a terrorist group that proclaims itself as the “Islamic State (ISIL),” was uploaded online. In this video, a warning has been made that the two individuals, who seem to be Japanese nationals, will be executed.

If this is true, such an act of blackmailing through holding the innocent lives as hostage is utterly impermissible, and we feel strong indignation. We strongly urge the group not to harm the two Japanese nationals and to release them immediately.

Prime Minister Abe’s trip to the Middle East this time is intended to send a message that Japan will actively contribute to the stability of the Middle East region. Japanese assistance, which we have announced and amounts to approximately 200 million USD, is for humanitarian assistance and infrastructure development, and it is non-military in nature.

In any case, Japan will not give in to terrorism, and our position of contributing to the counter-terrorism efforts by the international community remains unchanged.

رسالة من اليابان حول عملية التهديد بقتل الرهينتين اليابانيين

قبل الساعة الثالثة بعد الظهر اليوم (يوم 20 يناير) بالتوقيت الياباني، تم نشر صورة متحركة يبدو أنها بُثت من قبل التنظيم الإرهابي الذي يسمي نفسه بـ”الدولة الإسلامية” عبر الإنترنت. وفي هذه الصورة رهينتان يبدو أنهما يابانيان يهدد هذا التنظيم الإرهابي بقتلهما.

إذا كان هذا هو الواقع، فإننا نشعر بغضب شديد ولن نتسامح أبدا مع مثل هذه العملية للتهديد مع خطف حياة الناس. فنطلب بقوة عدم تعريض هذين اليابانيين للخطر وإطلاق سراحهما فورا.

إن هدف زيارة رئيس الوزراء الياباني شينزو آبي إلى الشرق الأوسط ليس سوى أن يعلن أن اليابان مصممة على المساهمة بصورة بناءة في تحقيق استقرار الشرق الأوسط، كما أن مساعدات الـ200 مليون دولار التي أعلنتها اليابان سيتم تقديمها في المجالات غير العسكرية بما في ذلك المساعدات الإنسانية والبنى التحتية.

وعلى أي حال، فإن موقف اليابان سيظل دون تغير حيث إن اليابان تواصل مساهمتها في مكافحة الإرهاب التي يقودها المجتمع الدولي، ولن تخضع للإرهاب.

The Ministry of Foreign Affair officially explains the hypothetical seeming hostage situation which is if true and threat carried out, will result in strong indignation!
The Ministry of Foreign Affair officially explains the hypothetical seeming hostage situation which is if true and threat carried out, will result in strong indignation! Take that ISIS.