New York, August 28, 2000–Philippine rebels freed French television reporter Maryse Burgot, of France 2 Broadcasting, yesterday after seven weeks in captivity on the southern island of Jolo. Two of her colleagues, cameraman Jean-Jacques Le Garrec and sound engineer Roland Madura, remain in rebel hands, along with at least 16 other Western and Filipino hostages.
“We are very relieved that Ms. Burgot has been released,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “CPJ urges everyone involved–the negotiators and the gunmen–to resolve this crisis quickly and peacefully so that all remaining hostages may return to their families and their lives.”
Libya has been brokering negotiations to free Western hostages held by rebels of the Abu Sayyaf group, self-styled Islamic separatists who kidnapped 21 people from a nearby Malaysian diving resort on April 23. The French journalists were abducted on July 9, when they went to Jolo to cover the hostage crisis. Since June 1, fifteen journalists have been kidnapped on the island; all but Le Garrec and Madura have since been released.
Libyan negotiators initially crafted a ransom deal that did not include the captured journalists. That deal fell through on August 17, when Philippine president Joseph Estrada insisted that all Western hostages be released together.
The Abu Sayyaf has reportedly been dragging out the hostage crisis for fear of a military attack once all hostages are freed. Chief Philippine government negotiator Roberto Aventajado did not speculate about when the remaining hostages would be released.