TOKYO, March 17 (Reuters) - A video surfaced on Thursday appearing to show a missing Japanese journalist, reportedly held by an al Qaeda affiliate in Syria, reading a message to his family and country.
“Hello, I am Jumpei Yasuda. Today is my birthday, 16 March,” the bearded man, who appears to be the Japanese freelance journalist of that name, says on the video, posted on Facebook.
The man, sitting at a table in front of a white wall, says he misses his family but cannot be with them. The man, dressed in a dark sweater with a scarf, mostly seemed calm as he spoke in English in the one-minute video but occasionally paused with emotion.
Japanese media said Yasuda was captured by Nusra Front after entering Syria from Turkey in June. Public broadcaster NHK said it had spoken by phone with the man who posted the video, who said he had received it from someone seeking Yasuda’s release.
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters the government was aware of the video and was collecting and analysing intelligence to formulate a response. “The safety of Japanese citizens is an important duty of the government, so we are making full use of various information networks to respond,” Kishida said.
Reuters could not verify the video and could not reach Yasuda’s family.
The man in the video does not give any information about who is holding him or any demands they have. He says “they” allowed him to say what he wanted.
After saying he wished he could hug his wife, father, mother and brother, he says: “I have to say to something to my country: When you’re sitting there, wherever you are, in a dark room, suffering with the pain, there’s still no one. No one answering. No one responding. You’re invisible.”
In December, media freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders retracted and apologised for a report it had issued that said Yasuda had been threatened with execution in Syria. The government said at the time it was seeking information.
The Islamic State militant group beheaded two Japanese nationals - a self-styled security consultant and a veteran war reporter - early last year. The gruesome executions captured the attention of Japan but the government said at the time it would not negotiate with the militants for their release. (Reporting by William Mallard; Additional reporting by Toshiki Hashimoto, Kazuhiko Tamaki and Teppei Kasai; Editing by Paul Tait)