Click here to read more about press freedom conditions in the PHILIPPINES
New York, August 16, 2000 --- Three French journalists kidnapped by Islamic separatist rebels on the southern Philippine island of Jolo may be released tomorrow (August 17) along with the remaining hostages, chief government negotiator Roberto Aventajado told The Associated Press today.
Reporter Maryse Burgot, cameraman Jean-Jacques Le Garrec, and sound engineer Roland Madura of France 2 Broadcasting were kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf rebels on July 9, while reporting on the hostage crisis that began with the abduction of 21 people from a Malaysian diving resort on April 23.
News of the France 2 team's possible release contradicted reports earlier in the week that government negotiators did not expect the journalists to be released with the others.
CPJ sources have expressed the fear that the Abu Sayyaf may keep some hostages to use as human shields against an anticipated assault by the Philippine military.
The Abu Sayyaf have received a total of US$5.5 million in ransom payments for the hostages released so far, according to The Associated Press, and have reportedly used the money to buy arms and recruit more men to strengthen their defenses.
France 2 did not comment on whether the company had received any ransom demands.
CPJ has documented the following kidnappings of journalists on Jolo since June 1:
- On June 2, ten foreign journalists were held for 10 hours until they pooled together their own funds to pay a US$25,000 ransom.
- On July 2, Der Spiegel reporter Andreas Lorenz was kidnapped by a splinter faction of the Abu Sayyaf. Lorenz, who had been among the group held on June 2, was released on July 27.
- On July 9, three France 2 journalists were abducted. The Philippine government is currently negotiating their release.
- On July 24, two Filipino journalists, ABS-CBN cameraman Val Cuenca and researcher/writer Maan Macapagal, were kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf guerrillas. They were released on Saturday, July 29, reportedly after the intervention of Abu Sayyaf leader Radulon Sajiron, whose nephew's faction had kidnapped them.