World

Japan photographer says govt took his passport over reporting plan in Syria, demands return

Japanese freelance photographer Yuichi Sugimoto shows the press the original document of an order, signed by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, which he was given by Japanese foreign ministry officials at his home, during a news conference in Tokyo Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015. Sugimoto said he was forced to give up his passport because he planned a reporting trip to Syria, which the government has stepped up warnings to its citizens not to visit after two Japanese were killed there in a recent hostage crisis. (AP Photo/Mari Yamaguchi)

Japanese freelance photographer Yuichi Sugimoto shows the press the original document of an order, signed by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, which he was given by Japanese foreign ministry officials at his home, during a news conference in Tokyo Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015. Sugimoto said he was forced to give up his passport because he planned a reporting trip to Syria, which the government has stepped up warnings to its citizens not to visit after two Japanese were killed there in a recent hostage crisis. (AP Photo/Mari Yamaguchi)  (The Associated Press)

A Japanese photographer says he was forced to give up his passport because of a planned reporting trip to Syria, complaining the confiscation only violated his constitutional right of travel and press freedom and took away his work.

Yuichi Sugimoto, 58, said Thursday that several Foreign Ministry and police officials visited his home Saturday in Niigata, northern Japan, citing the risk of his planned trip that had been published in local media. Sugimoto said, fearing arrest, he handed over his passport.

Top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga has defended the measure, the first such case under the passport law, given the risk in Syria and the government's responsibility to protect its people.

Japan is still in shock from a recent hostage crisis where two Japanese were allegedly beheaded by militants.