Journalist Jumpei Yasuda, who returned home last year after more than three years in captivity in Syria, has been attempting to obtain a passport for five months but the Foreign Ministry has yet to make a decision on his application.
The 45-year-old freelance journalist said earlier this week that he has been told by the ministry that his application is still “under examination.” Government officials have confirmed the details.
“I’m effectively banned from traveling overseas, as a decision to issue my passport has not been made for some time,” Yasuda said.
The passport act stipulates that the government may decide not to issue a passport if a destination country denies entry to the applicant, or if it is deemed the applicant could harm the national interest.
According to Yasuda, the ministry told him they are worried he might violate the act. He was deported from Turkey, from where he was released last October, and isn’t permitted to enter the country.
Yasuda said his passport was stolen when he became a captive of a militant group in June 2015 after entering Syria to report on the Islamic State group. He said he was captured shortly after crossing the border with Turkey on foot.
After returning to Japan, he applied for a new passport on Jan. 7.
He was asked by the ministry to submit his travel plan in April and he explained that he and his family wanted to travel to India in May and Europe in June. Turkey was not included in the plan.
Usually it takes about a week for an applicant to receive a passport and it is rare for the ministry to take five months to make a decision.
“Restricting the freedom and rights of an individual requires adequate explanation,” said Doshisha University professor Takeshi Ogata. “There needs to be sufficient grounds if the ministry rejects the issuance.”
A Foreign Ministry official said, “I can’t comment on the matter except to say it’s under examination.”
In 2004, Yasuda was held by an armed group in Iraq while covering the conflict in that country, but he was released unhurt along with another Japanese man three days later.
In the years since, Yasuda continued to cover the Middle East.
A native of Iruma, Saitama Prefecture, he started his career in journalism in 1997 as a reporter for the Shinano Mainichi Shimbun, a local newspaper based in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, and became a freelance journalist in 2003.