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Philippines 2 October 2002

Two Philippine journalists freed

On 7 October, police in Sulu province jailed Hadja Jarma Mohammad Imran, better known as Hadja Lyn, after charging her with the kidnapping of two GMA television reporters she was accompanying on Jolo island. Lyn, who works with the army disarming rebel groups on Jolo, says she is innocent and accuses three members of the Moro National Liberation Front (who are also members of the national army’s 104th Battalion) of being behind the kidnappings. She said one of them was Capt. Alex Musngi. She was charged in the absence of her lawyer, has refused to sign several statements and has called on GMA journalist Carlo Lorenzo to give evidence in her favour.

Reporter Carlo Lorenzo and cameraman Gilbert Ordiales were freed on 3 October after being held in captivity for six days in the mountains of the southern Philippine island of Jolo. They were taken to the provincial governor in Sulu. Following the intervention of local officials, the two men were found safe and sound not far from the spot where they were kidnapped. The television channel GMA has denied any suggestions that a ransom was paid to the kidnappers.

The kidnappers have not been formally identified. They are probably former Moro National Liberation Front rebels who have turned to crime. The rebels threatened Mr Lorenzo and Mr Ordiales with a gun and took all their personal belongings of any value, but the two men say they were not ill treated. In a statement to the press, Mr Lorenzo said, "I thought they were going to kill us, to decapitate us, but we are safe and sound". Seven people are still being held hostage on the Jolo Island.

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières) expressed its great concern today about the disappearance of two television journalists on the southern Philippines island of Jolo and said it feared they had been kidnapped.

Nothing has been heard from the two - reporter Carlo Lorenzo and cameraman Gilbert Ordiales, both of the privately-owned TV station GMA - since 28 September.

"Events in recent years on Jolo, which is plagued by guerrillas and bandits, lead us to fear they are being held hostage," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard. He appealed to the leaders of the Muslim guerrilla Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to release the journalists if it was holding them.

At least 27 Filipino and foreign journalists have been kidnapped by Muslim rebels and bandits in the Sulu Archipelago since May 2000.

Lorenzo and Ordiales went to the town of Indanan on 28 September to interview three Indonesian hostages or the leader of the armed group holding them. Police said they were supposed to meet Arola Abubakar, one of the MNLF leaders.

The two reporters met their first contact, Jalma Abdurajak, in the village of Ommol Quid, near Barangay Buansa. They then went to Barangay Talibang where Abubakar and his men met them and took them on foot to one of their camps near Barangay Kagay. The journalists’ driver then lost contact with them. The Philippines army began searching for them near Indanan on 1 October.

The authorities have for several years warned local and foreign journalists to stay away from the Sulu Archipelago, where the army clashes frequently with armed groups, especially the forces of Abu Sayyaf. Journalists are often robbed or taken hostage. Victims have included Andreas Lorenz, Maryse Burgot, Jean-Jacques Le Garrec and Roland Madura, in July 2000, and Arlyn de la Cruz, in January this year.

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in the annual report
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