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Kenji Goto: Speaker for the Ordinary People

Kenji Goto: Speaker for the Ordinary People

(FILES) A file handout photo taken on Oc…(FILES) A file handout photo taken on October 27, 2010 and released by an international relief organization on January 21, 2015 shows Japanese journalist Kenji Goto delivering a lecture during a symposium in Tokyo. The Islamic State group released a video on January 31, 2015, purportedly showing the beheading of Japanese hostage Kenji Goto. AFP PHOTO

Japanese journalist was on a mission to help free his friend, Haruna Yukawa, when he was captured by violent jihadists of Isil.

Kenji Goto was well known in Japan, with a reputation for reporting from places that other people avoided.

His work often focused on the impact of war and he was a familiar face to the small band of journalists reporting from inside Syria. Many passed time with him in cafes in the Turkish border towns of Antakya and Gaziantep, as they planned their trips inside the country.

He had written books on the impact of Aids on Africa and been on assignment for several of Japan’s main news broadcasters in Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq and other hot-spots across Africa and Asia.

At every turn, he was known as a reporter who tried to seek out the uplifting personal stories that went the headline gloom.

And when he was abducted last year, he was on a personal mission to help free his friend and compatriot Haruna Yukawa, who had earlier been snatched by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.

Mr Goto had apparently met Mr Yukawa first in Aleppo in April 2013, and he had helped his less-experienced friend with arrangements to travel to Baghdad.

Mr Goto described how Mr Yukawa had befriended members of the Free Syrian Army, one of the factions fighting in Syria, and that they trusted him because he was so un-soldierly in his approach. They shared meals with him and introduced him to their families in refugee camps.

Shortly after crossing the border from Turkey into Syria in October, Mr Goto, 47, a married father of three, recorded a video message on his Turkish assistant’s mobile phone.

“If something happens, all the responsibility is on me,” he said. “It’s pretty dangerous … but please don’t have a have a bad impression to [sic] the Syrian people.

He tried to reassure his friends and relatives with a few last words at the end of the message, as he tried to imagine their fears.

“But I will definitely come back alive,” he said.

To those that knew him well, his chosen path was at odds with his gentle character.

Henry Tricks, a journalist with The Economist, wrote: “It is hard to reconcile the soft-spoken, gentle man, who once paled in a bowling alley because the sound of the balls reminded him of bombs dropping on Iraq, with the image of a hardened war correspondent.

“But he covers wars with a difference. Instead of focusing on who is winning or losing, he tells the stories of ordinary people, especially children, who are forced to endure conflict and the horrors surrounding them.”

The final post to Mr Goto’s Twitter account was made in October 2014.

At about that time he also sent an email to an Associated Press journalist in October, in which he wrote: “I’m in Syria for reporting. I hope I can convey the atmosphere from where I am and share it.”

To the very last, he will be remembered as a brave journalist who sought to tell other people’s stories.

The Telegraph


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This entry was posted on January 31, 2015 by in ISIS, Japan, Opinion, World and tagged , , , , .

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