Japanese journalist Jumpei Yasuda, who returned home last year after more than three years of captivity in Syria, has been denied issuance of a passport for five months after submitting an application to the Foreign Ministry.
The 45-year-old freelance journalist told Kyodo News earlier this week he has been told by the ministry his application is still "under examination." Government officials have admitted to the situation.
"I'm effectively banned from traveling overseas, as a decision to issue my passport has not been made for some time," Yasuda said.
Under the Constitution, for all Japanese nationals, freedom to leave and enter Japan is guaranteed. But the passport law stipulates that the government may not issue a passport if a destination country denies entry to the applicant, or it is deemed the applicant could harm national interest.
According to Yasuda, the ministry explained he might go against regulations under the law, as he was deported from Turkey where he had been released last October and is refused entry by the country.
Yasuda said his passport was stolen when he became captive of a militant group in June 2015 after entering Syria to report on the Islamic State group but 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 a Japanese to receive a passport after submitting an application and it is rare for the ministry not to make a decision to issue a passport for five months.
"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, near Tokyo, he started his career in journalism in 1997 as a reporter for the Shinano Mainichi Shimbun, a local newspaper in central Japan, and went freelance in 2003.