Respected journalist Goto aims to tell world of Syrians’ suffering

by and

Staff Writers

Kenji Goto is among a rare breed of journalists who, while reporting from conflict-ridden Syria, has never regarded himself as a war reporter. Instead, he has tried to capture the voices of ordinary citizens whose fates have been irreversibly changed by war.

Goto, 47, began reporting on Syria and its people four years ago, when its civil war broke out. He went missing in mid-October in the north of the country after entering from Turkey, reportedly to look for Haruna Yukawa, the second hostage seen in the video.

In May, Goto told a newspaper his focus as a reporter is always the people suffering, rather than the war itself.

“The ‘front lines’ of my reporting are where people suffer the unbearable and yet where they are still trying to live,” Goto told the Tokyo-based newspaper Christian Today.

“I want to be compassionate to people who are in the midst of hardship. They always have a message to tell. If I manage to find an outlet for their stories in the world, that might lead to a solution. Only then my job will be considered a success.”

Toshitsugu Maeda, a journalist friend of Goto’s, said that he has “relentlessly pursued people angles” through his work, and made it his lifelong mission to follow the lives of children who bore the brunt of war.

Goto also believes that Japan’s postwar pacifism has worked in his favor, allowing him access to places no Western journalists dared to venture, Maeda said.

“He said as a Japanese he had a duty to keep going to Syria because journalists from the United States and the U.K. could not report freely there,” Maeda said. “Two or three years ago he was held captive by al-Qaida-linked forces, but he was released after explaining his intentions to the captors. He said he had the advantage of being a journalist from Japan, which, unlike the U.S. or the U.K., has never participated in air strikes.”

In a report he filed for NHK in 2012, Goto reported how the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad tortured its people. His dispatch showed how the torture hardened anger against the Syrian government and recruited people to the side of the rebels. The report also included mostly mosaicked footage of citizens tortured by government forces after taking part in a peaceful demonstrations.

As a journalist, Goto is “devoted to reporting what should be reported with a firm conviction,” said Hiroshi Tamura, pastor of the Chofu Church of the United Church of Christ in Japan. Tamura had until March 2013 been pastor of the Denenchofu Church of the United Church of Christ, which Goto attended.

He said Goto “has a strong sense of justice . . . and he has always been conscious of vulnerable people, including children.”

Tamura added that he has seen the video and is praying for Goto’s safe return.

Goto seems to have been well aware of the risks involved and took precautions to avoid trouble.

“Professionally he was usually very careful, always worked with local people who know what’s dangerous, what to avoid,” said Miki Ebara, editor-in-chief of NHK World, during a news segment profiling the journalist on Tuesday.

“But Kenji had also told me, even for him, Syria was full of danger.”

  • mrmsjb12

    This has to be the straw that breaks the camels back, If the countries would just grow some ba**s and take these ISIS stooges out why don’t we just blow them up and turn them into dust nobody will miss them we have to kill them and stop worrying about killing innocent people most of them are not so innocent, IF we do not stop them now we won’t be able to, they are just getting too big for their pants

    • keratomileusis

      Do you have any idea how many “innocents” the U.S. has killed so far? Or Israel?

  • nick

    yakuza vs isis… who would win?

  • Victor Edwards

    Two things:

    1. I am sick and tired of the sick godless behavior of ISIS. It is now time to return to warfare akin to a generation ago and carpet bomb the portion of Syria where these brute beasts are. Yes, there will be some unavoidable deaths of innocents, but there are as it stands now, including these men.

    2. When you go to where ISIS killers have a long record of taking journalists hostage, and flaunt yourself as a “freelance journalist,” you have increased your risk of death to almost a certainty. Sadly, you carried in your soul the idea that civilized people would understand the purpose of journalism. But you missed the point; Islam is not civilized. It is a violent, godless religion that kills.

    I will add a third. ISIS must be desperate for money, which would strongly indicate that something good is happening in that area and with the efforts to strangle their finances. But carpet bombing a 10,000 square mile area in a few days would bring the whole process to a better and quicker ending, as the bombs did in Japan a generation ago.

    After that, who knows? Perhaps take Syria? Just sayin’…

    • Charlie Sommers

      “I am sick and tired of the sick godless behavior of ISIS. It is now time to return to warfare akin to a generation ago and carpet bomb the portion of Syria where these brute beasts are. Yes, there will be some unavoidable deaths of innocents, but there are as it stands now, including these men.”

      So your solution for dealing with these monsters is to behave the exact same way they behave?

      “Accipere quam facere praestat injuriam.”

      (It is better to suffer an injustice than to do an injustice.)


    • keratomileusis

      Godless? U.S. fundamentalist Christians support Israel no matter what because they believe that Israel is essential to the Rapture. All non believers die and the chosen go to Heaven. Christians have killed lots and lots of people in the past, even other “Christians” (Wars of Religion) Sorry, I don’t see a big difference…

      Terrorism is a way for the outspent and the out-resourced to fight against far more powerful entities. “Why do they hate us?” shows just how ignorant Americans were and still are following 9/11.

      This is not going to end anytime soon: Conflict, Cataclysm, Collapse are the only things that change human behavior.

      I’m glad Japan is not religiously dogmatic and reserves involvement to standing in line at New Years to pray.

    • Devon

      Way to go Mr. Pseudo-Christian… You’re really a living example of being the light of Christ for the world…

  • Ashwin Campbell

    Sucks but he didn’t have to go there. As for the other guy, off with his… you know. He was stupid enough to wander into a conflict zone, that’s on him. I refuse for my tax dollars to bail that douche out. Maybe Abe can bargin, how about Japanese technology? They love to give that stuff away, just look at China.

    • Charlie Sommers

      “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

      ~Edmund Burke

      • Ashwin Campbell

        You’re right. I’m just a very pragmatic and cynical pessimist.

    • keratomileusis

      Everyone knows about the suffering. The problem is nobody cares because there’s no direct consequence or effect on people’s daily lives. Sorry, gotta go back to my video game now…

      • Abdul B

        lmao which game is it btw?

  • Andrew Brian Rex Tam

    Grant him eternal rest O Lord, and let your perpetual light shine upon him. Amen.