Gov’t unsure if Arab TV reporter was abducted

Posted at 06/17/12 3:15 PM

MANILA, Philippines -- The government is still at a loss over the disappearance of a veteran Middle Eastern journalist who has been missing since Tuesday.

In an interview with radio dzRB, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said it is still unclear if Al-Arabiya TV bureau chief for Southeast Asia Baker Abdulla Atyani has been abducted by the Abu Sayyaf.

He was with two Manila-based crewmen.

“Well, we’re monitoring that situation carefully. We’re getting updates from the local government in Sulu. And as far as we have been updated…You can’t even put the incident in that category (abduction),” she said.

She added: “They are still considered missing and efforts are being expended to locate them. Kasi ‘nung huli po silang nakita they voluntarily left their hostel with several persons.”

She also insisted the government will not pay any ransom if it turns out that they had been kidnapped.

“Well, you know, first that (ransom) is premature because nobody is even definitive if it was actually an abduction. And, second, the government holds a no-ransom policy. That has not changed,” she said.

Atyani has not contacted the authorities since Tuesday since he was posted for a reporting trip to Jolo, where he allegedly interviewed members of the Abu Sayyaf.

Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command Chief Lt. Gen. Noel Coballes said only the local government can answer questions regarding the incident.

He said they did not know about the journalist’s trip to Jolo since they were not informed about it.

He advised other journalists to seek clearance from them in the future. “Mas maganda kung they seek clearance or…at least talk to the commander on the ground for them to be secured while covering something,” he said.