'Missing journalist did not heed warnings'-A A +A
Monday, June 18, 2012
MANILA (Updated 3:33 p.m.) -- Malacañang said on Monday that the local government officials gave all the necessary warnings to the Jordanian journalist who went missing since Tuesday in Jolo, Sulu.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda confirmed that Al-Arabiya TV bureau chief for Southeast Asia Baker Abdulla Atyani and his two Filipino crew cameraman Ramelito Vela and audioman Rolando Letrero were in the turf of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).
Lacierda said the Palace is getting updates from Sulu Governor Sakur Tan, who heads the crisis committee formed to locate the missing foreign reporter and his team.
“What we can confirm is that he is in the hands of ASG and that he went there voluntarily for an interview,” said Lacierda.
He said Governor Tan offered to provide security for the Middle Eastern journalist but the latter declined it.
He added that the local official also recommended Atyani a safe place to stay but he also turned it down.
Atyani, an experienced reporter who interviewed notorious terrorist Osama bin Laden, reportedly went to Mindanao to do a documentary on kidnappings in southern Philippines.
Atyani has been visiting Sulu the past 10 years to get first-hand news about the Abu Sayyaf.
He arrived in Zamboanga City on June 10 where he had interviews with a certain Uztad Abdul Baki Abubakar and a certain Morehi Ibrahim.
The next day, Atyani and his team flew to Sulu to interview Governor Tan and Jolo Mayor Hussein Amin.
On June 12, the three reportedly went to a jungle in Jolo to conduct an interview with Abu Sayyaf leader Yasser Igasan. They were last seen at their hostel in Jolo where they were picked up by a minivan. They reportedly left voluntarily.
“I believe that on the part of the Provincial Government and the local government in Sulu, they have done their job to extend all the hospitality and security that they can do,” Lacierda said, adding Atyani did not inform local officials that he will be interviewing the ASG militants.
The Palace official reminded journalists who may be planning to pursue stories in dangerous areas in Mindanao to coordinate with the local officials first to avoid incident of abduction.
“We can inform him about the possible dangers but since you are journalist, we would not wish to proscribe the right to their duties as a responsible journalist. The best that we can do is to warn them,” he said.
Malacañang maintained the no ransom policy on the case of the Jordanian reporter. The ASG is reportedly asking for a P50-million ransom.
Lacierda said the Foreign Affairs department has already informed the Jordanian Embassy regarding the matter.
Meanwhile, he clarified that the travel warning issued by the United States department was not related to Atyani’s disappearance.
“Let me correct the impression. It wasn’t because of what happened in Sulu. Again, their travel warning is a regular update that they give, provide to their US citizens who are in the country and those who plan to visit the country.” (Jill Beltran/Sunnex)