July 6, 2000
His Excellency Joseph Ejercito Estrada
President, Republic of the Philippines
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply concerned about the safety of German journalist Andreas Lorenz, apparently kidnapped July 2 on the southern island of Jolo. CPJ calls on your government to ensure he remains unharmed and to secure his immediate release.
Lorenz, a Beijing-based reporter for the German news magazine Der Spiegel, went to Jolo to cover the hostage crisis which began on April 23 when the Islamic rebel group Abu Sayyaf abducted 20 people, including three German nationals, from a Malaysian resort.
Police identified the Abu Sayyaf as Lorenz's captors. A spokesman for the rebel group denied the charge.
According to reports by local and international media, on July 2 around 4 p.m., Lorenz was seen leaving the Cooperative Inn in Jolo town with four men. Lorenz's driver, Yakub Paradji, told police that he drove the group about a mile to Kasalamatan village near Patikul town, where Lorenz was forced to leave with the gunmen. Paradji reportedly was ordered to return to Jolo town. A Reuters report quoted an eyewitness who saw Lorenz being kicked and hit with a gun when he attempted to resist his captors.
Lorenz is one of ten foreign journalists who were kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf guerrillas in early June. Together they paid a ransom of $25,000 for their release, according to press reports.
Der Spiegel editors told CPJ that the paper has not received demands for ransom in this current incident.
Police intelligence officers report seeing Lorenz on July 3 at a camp run by Radulan Sajiron, one of five known leaders of the Abu Sayyaf. The police have said they did not take action for fear of endangering Lorenz's life.
Editors at Der Spiegel told CPJ that they do not believe Lorenz intended to visit the rebel camp, and that he had been taken there against his will. He had planned, they said, to meet in Jolo town with a source who would provide documents and videotapes. The fact that the reporter left his satellite phone and laptop computer behind in his hotel room suggests, the editors said, that Lorenz had not planned an extended trip outside the city for journalistic purposes.
As an organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of our colleagues around the world, CPJ applauds the efforts of local police and intelligence officers in trying to locate and rescue Lorenz. We urge them to make his safety their primary concern.
We do, however, object to statements by Philippine officials, reported in the press, which imply that Lorenz is at fault for the current events. The Philippine Daily Inquirer quotes Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, saying he would not urge the Republic of the Philippines to take responsibility for Lorenz's safety as Lorenz was aware of the dangers in the area. Statements such as this give mixed signals both to those involved in the search as well as to the captors. We respectfully ask Your Excellency to ensure that members of your administration put their full weight behind efforts to free Lorenz.
The foreign editor of Der Spiegel, Olaf Ihlau, is due in Manila on July 6. We urge you to offer representatives of Der Spiegel and of the German government the greatest support and to keep them well-informed of the status of your government's efforts to secure the freedom of Andreas Lorenz.
We thank you for your attention to this urgent matter and look forward to a successful resolution of this crisis.
Ann K. Cooper