Japanese officials refused to comment Thursday on whether a missing journalist has fallen captive to an armed group in Syria, less than a year after another reporter from the country was executed by DAESH.
Jumpei Yasuda, 41, was reportedly kidnapped in July after traveling to the war-torn Middle Eastern country to cover the civil war.
On Tuesday, the France-based Reporters Without Borders said it had received information that a ransom had been demanded for the release of Yasuda, who would be executed or sold to “another terrorist group” if a payment was not completed before the set countdown.
Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, told a press conference Thursday that the government was investigating the situation.
"Ensuring the safety of Japanese nationals is the government's key responsibility. We are doing our utmost to make use of various networks of information and take necessary actions," Kyodo quoted him as saying.
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida also refused to address if Yasuda’s alleged captivity had been confirmed.
He, however, acknowledged that authorities are "aware of the report" but would not disclose further details due to the matter’s sensitivity, the agency reported.
According to Reporters Without Borders, Yasuda had traveled to Syria to write about the beheading of his friend and colleague Kenji Goto in late January.
“We are very concerned about Jumpei Yasuda’s fate and we call on the Japanese government to do what is needed to save this journalist,” the head of the group’s Asia-Pacific desk, Benjamin Ismail, said in a statement Tuesday.
“We also urge all parties to this conflict to respect the media’s work and to stop taking journalists hostage for political or financial purposes.”
According to its figures, more than 25 journalists – around half of the figure worldwide – are currently captive in Syria, ranked as the most dangerous country for press members.