NUJP condemns gov’t handing of Atyani

The NUJP asks: why should journalists need to ask permission from government before covering dangerous areas such as Sulu?

Baker Atyani (left) with Al Qaeda's Ayman al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan back in June 2001. Photo from CNN

MANILA, Philippines – The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) on Wednesday, June 20, condemned Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo for announcing he will recommend to authorities that Jordanian reporter Baker Atyani be deported once he resurfaces and then banned from entering the country in the future.

Since the Jordanian went missing along with two Filipino crew members on June 12, “the efforts of those tasked to look for the Muslim journalist are seemingly lukewarm,” the NUJP said in a statement.

Robredo claimed that Atyani is under the custody of Abu Sayyaf leader Nadzmir Alih but is not being held against his will, and reiterated he should have coordinated with the local government, the police and the military before traveling to Sulu to film a documentary.

 

“The last time we checked, we were still living in a democracy and not in a police state,” said the NUJP. Reporters “do not need approval especially from government, the police and the military, before covering a story.”

It added: “Journalists and media groups have since advocated for safe coverage in conflict situations; while Atyani’s foray into Sulu was not without its perils, he knew the risks and until he cannot explain himself, we should give him the benefit of the doubt and not impute any baseless and irresponsible statements.”

The NUJP also pointed to an unnamed official quoted in a report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer who said that Atyani was assisting the terrorists.

The source claimed that the foreign journalist is considered as a “terrorist cell contact” because he interviewed late Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden a few months before the 9/11 attacks.

“The statements linking Atyani with terror groups are irresponsible and endanger the lives of the journalist and his crew,” noted the NUJP.

“The flimsy reason of this suspicion – his interviews with Osama bin Laden – also stereotypes and endangers journalists who conduct interviews on personalities and groups considered to be illegal and enemies of the state.” – Rappler.com

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