Japanese journalist reported kidnapped in Afghanistan

New York, April 2, 2010—The Committee to Protect Journalists expressed concern today after a Japanese official said freelance Japanese journalist Kosuke Tsuneoka had apparently been kidnapped in northern Afghanistan. 

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano told journalists he was aware of Japanese media reports about the kidnapping, according to Tokyo-based agency Kyodo News and international news reports, but declined to comment further. “Generally speaking this kind of abduction involves personal information,” he said, according to Kyodo News. A relative told the agency that Japan’s Foreign Ministry had asked them not to talk to the media.  

Tsuneoka had been covering the Taliban in Afghanistan since mid-March, and was last heard of in the northern city of Kunduz, the news reports said.

“We are concerned for the safety of Kosuke Tsuneoka and hope he will be released soon,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ Asia program coordinator. “Tsuneoka is an international journalist who was legitimately reporting in Afghanistan.”

Tsuneoka, 40, who has reported from several conflict zones for magazines and television, also went missing in Georgia in 2001. He was held for several months by unidentified individuals before being freed during a Georgian military operation, according to CPJ research.

Several international reporters have been abducted in Afghanistan in the last three years, often with local reporters or assistants, according to CPJ research. In some instances, media organizations and family members have requested that abductions not be publicized for fear of escalating ransom demands. CPJ has honored these requests.

A group purportedly linked to the Taliban have held two French journalists from France 3 TV—publicly identified only as Hervé and Stéphane—since they went missing on a trip to meet a source in eastern Kapisa province in December 2009. At least one Afghan colleague, identified as a translator, is also being held. Reuters reported that the group’s driver, who was also abducted, was later freed. Initial reports said three unnamed Afghan colleagues were kidnapped along with the French nationals.

New York Times reporter Sultan Munadi, an Afghan, was shot and killed in September 2009 during an exchange of fire between British military forces and a Taliban group who had abducted him and a British colleague, Stephen Farrell. Farrell was rescued unhurt. CPJ wrote to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown last year, and again in March, asking him to investigate whether Munadi’s rescue was an objective of the mission.