A video surfaced on 17 March, 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," said the bearded man, who appears to be the Japanese freelance journalist of that name.
Yasuda, sitting at a table in front of a white wall, says he misses his family but cannot be with them. Dressed in a dark sweater with a scarf, he 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.
Yasuda 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 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.
Islamic State (Isis/Daesh) 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.