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Philippines 18 June 2008

Abu Sayyaf militants free TV crew

Reporters Without Borders is relieved to learn that ABS-CBN presenter Ces Drilon and cameraman Angelo Valderama, and their guide, Octavio Dinampo, were released shortly before midnight last night by members of the radical group who had been holding them for a week on an island in the southern Sulu archipelago. They were taken to the nearby city of Zamboanga and from there to Manila

Drilon said she had been shaken by the experience but was now happy to be free and she thanked all those who helped to obtain their release, including Senator Loren Legarda. She said her kidnappers had tied her up and hit her. They had gone to Sulu province to interview an Abu Sayyaf leader but had been betrayed, she added.

National police chief Avelino Razon said: “There will be a manhunt operation. We will not allow that the perpetrators will go unpunished. We will run after them, file cases against them.” The police have already questioned Alvarez Isnaji, the mayor of a town near to where the hostages were held, and his son. Both played a key role in the negotiations for their release.


Concern mounts for TV crew held hostage by Abu Sayyaf

Reporters Without Borders is deeply concerned about the ultimatum issued by the radical group Abu Sayyaf, which is holding ABS-CBN television presenter Ces Drilon and cameraman Angelo Valderama, and their guide, Octavio Dinampo. After threatening to kill them if a ransom of 15 million pesos (300,000 US dollars) was not paid by midday today, the kidnappers agreed to extend the deadline “indefinitely.”

One of the people conducting the negotiations, mayor Alvarez Isnaji of Indanan, a town on the southern island of Sulu near to where the hostages are being held, said the last time he talked to Drilon yesterday, she was sobbing.

The families of the three hostages have called for their release, saying they were not able to meet the ransom demand. “We need our father, we do not even know where to find the money to pay for school,” the cameraman’s daughter, Joy Encarnacio, said in an interview for a radio station that broadcasts to Sulu. ABS-CBN has said it will not pay any ransom.

The police have identified Sulayman Patta and “Walid” as the persons responsible for the kidnapping and have offered a reward of 500,000 pesos for information leading to the arrest of either of them.


ABS-CBN cameraman freed, two other journalists still held in Sulu

Reporters Without Borders hails cameraman Angelo Valderama’s release last night and calls for this to be followed up with the release of reporter Ces Drilon and cameraman Jimmy Encarnacion. Police chief Avelino Razon said this morning: "We hope the remaining hostages will be freed today."

According to armed forces chief Lt. Gen. Alexander Yano, the ABS-CBN television crew led by presenter Ces Drilon is in good health although still held hostage in the mountains of the southern island of Sulu by a group that is believed to be the radical organisation Abu Sayyaf.

ABS-CBN is reportedly talking to their abductors but the armed forces are refusing to comment on the possibility that negotiations for their release are under way. In a statement on 11 June, the network said it opposed the payment of any ransom in order to discourage future abductions of journalists.

“Negotiations for their release have reached critical stage with an increase in the ransom demand from 145,000 to 290,000 euros,” a source close to the case told Agence France-Presse yesterday. All those involved in the case have urged the media to act with the utmost care.

10.06.2008 - TV station’s presenter and crew kidnapped on southern island

Reporters Without Borders calls for the release of ABS-CBN television’s presenter, Ces Drilon, her two-member crew and their guide, who have been missing for the past two days on the southern island of Sulu and may have been abducted by the militant group Abu Sayyaf, which has kidnapped more than 30 journalists.

"We hope that those who have abducted these three journalists and their guide will hear the appeals being made on their behalf by many of the country’s leading figures," the press freedom organisation said. "Taking hostages is unacceptable. We call on all those could have any influence over the kidnappers to try to get Drilon and her colleagues released."

The country’s largest privately-owned TV network, ABS-CBN confirmed today that it lost contact with Drilon and her crew, Jimmy Encarnacion and Angelo Valderama, and the Mindanao University professor who was serving as their guide, Octavio Dinampo.

It is believed that they were kidnapped on the evening of 8 June in Maimbung, on Sulu, an island to the southwest of Mindanao island, where they had gone to do a report. ABS-CBN asked other news media to consider the security of its journalists when covering the story.

Drilon, who has worked for ABS-CBN since 1989, produces and presents its programme Business News. She has won several media prizes for her reporting.

The Mindanews agency said Dinampo has guided journalists on Sulu several times in the past and has written articles after interviewing Abu Sayyaf militants. "The kidnappers must free him because he is a man of peace," said Roberto Layson, another Mindanao peace activist.

President Gloria Arroyo has ordered the security forces to do everything possible to find the ABS-CBN crew.

Abu Sayyaf’s many hostages have included European journalists Andreas Lorenz, Maryse Burgot, Jean-Jacques Le Garrec and Roland Madura, who were kidnapped on the island of Jolo in 2000. Arlyn de la Cruz, a reporter for the daily Inquirer and privately-owned TV station Net25, was released in April 2002 after being held for 100 days on Jolo.

In this country
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A journalist on army target list, another shot, possibly by soldier
6 March - Philippines
Second journalist in a week narrowly escapes murder attempt
23 February - Philippines
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5 January - Philippines
Radio show host comes under fire near his home
3 December - Philippines
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