Japanese journalist Jumpei Yasuda File picture: Kyodo/via Reuters

Tokyo - A man believed to be a Japanese freelance journalist who was captured three years ago in Syria has been freed, a Japanese government spokesman said on Tuesday.

"We received information from Qatar that Mr Jumpei Yasuda had been released," chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters. 

"We were informed that he is in an immigration facility in Antakya (in Turkey)."

Suga said the government was making checks to confirm that the man was in fact Yasuda. But he said that in light of the available information that was highly likely, adding that Yasuda's wife had been notified.

Japanese media reported that Yasuda, 44, had been captured by an al-Qaeda affiliate after entering Syria from Turkey in 2015.

Since then, he has appeared occasionally in online videos looking increasingly unkempt with greying hair. 

Meanwhile there has been no word on Johannesburg photojournalist Shiraaz Mohamed, who was kidnapped in Syria more than a year ago. 

Mohamed had been accompanying the Gift of the Givers to document its campaign at one of its biggest hospitals in northern Syria. But he never made it back. 

As he travelled towards the Syrian border, Mohamed and his driver were captured in January 2017. While the driver was released, Mohamed was held.

In January this year, a Gift of the Givers informant contacted a Syrian who offered “proof of life”. Ten questions sent by Mohamed’s family were answered by Mohamed via the kidnappers and informant, proving that he was alive.

In August an informant told Gift of the Givers that they had spoken with the man who had captured Mohamed, and gave details of the kidnapping.