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AFP-JIJI

Japanese journalist Jumpei Yasuda, freed from Syria this week, arrived home to overjoyed relatives and supporters, but also to vitriol from some who accuse him and other hostages of reckless behavior.

Yasuda was kidnapped in Syria in 2015 and spent more than three years in conditions he has described as “hell.”

He arrived back in Japan on the night of Oct. 25, greeted by his delighted wife and parents who brought him homemade food to celebrate.

But before Yasuda even set foot on Japanese soil, he was the target of angry criticism — mostly online — ranging from accusations of recklessness to claims he’s not Japanese.

“He is disturbing society,” wrote one Twitter user. “He’s an anti-citizen,” charged another.

Perhaps anticipating the criticism, Yasuda’s only statement upon arrival, read to reporters by his wife, Myu, was mainly an apology.

“I apologize for causing such trouble and worry. But, thanks to all of you, I was able to come home safely,” he said.

The anger directed at Yasuda — who has authored books on the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, and whose reporting has appeared on Japanese television — is a far cry from the reception that journalists held hostage have received in other countries upon their release.

When four French journalists held by the Islamic State group in Syria were released in 2014, Francois Hollande, French president at the time, met the men as they arrived home.

But in Japan freed hostages often meet a mixed reception, with critics suggesting victims were responsible for getting themselves kidnapped.

“They are the victims; they haven’t broken the law, but they have to apologize. It’s strange, but it’s the mentality of a part of Japanese society,” said Toshiro Terada, a professor of philosophy at Sophia University in Tokyo. “The person is accused of having harmed society.”

In Japan, mainstream media outlets and officials have largely avoided criticizing Yasuda and other hostages, and the antipathy expressed online is a concern for journalists such as Toru Tamakawa, a commentator for TV Asahi.

“In the case of Yasuda in particular, the argument that ‘it’s his fault’ must be firmly rejected,” he said this week. “We need people who will risk their lives to go and get information on the ground.”

First published in The Japan Times on Oct. 26.

Warm up

One-minute chat about a risk you’ve taken.

Game

Collect words related to war, e.g., weapon, peace, country.

New words

1) hostage: a person held against their will, e.g., “The hostages were freed after negotiations with the police.”

2) ransom: a payment for the release of a hostage or kidnapping victim, e.g., “The criminals demanded a ransom for the girl.”

Guess the headline

Freed hostage arrives home to j _ _ but also a _ _ _ _

Questions

1) What happened to Jumpei Yasuda?

2) What has been the reaction from Japanese people toward Yasuda?

3) According to the article, why do some people get angry with hostages?

Let’s discuss the article

1) Should journalists work in conflict areas?

2) What should the government do when one of its citizens is kidnapped?

Reference

数年にも渡り武装勢力に拘束されていた方が無事に帰国するということは本来喜ばしいことのはずですが、安田さんを取り巻く状況は必ずしも純粋な喜びだけに溢れたものではないようです。拘束のリスクがある国に赴き現地の様子を伝えるというジャーナリストの在り方はどのようにとらえられるべきなのでしょうか。またこのような事態が起きた場合に人質の母国政府はどのように臨むべきなのでしょうか。朝の会に参加し皆さんで話し合ってみましょう。

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