French journalists escape from rebel captivity

Press freedom conditions in the PHILIPPINES | Map of Philippines | Previous coverage of the Jolo hostage crisis | Hostage to the News: A journalist’s first-hand account

New York, September 20, 2000 — French journalists Jean-Jacques Le Garrec and Roland Madura escaped last night from their rebel captors on the southern Philippine island of Jolo. Le Garrec and MaduraÑa cameraman and sound engineer, respectively, for France 2 televisionÑwere abducted on July 9 by members of the Abu Sayyaf, a loose-knit federation of armed men who claim to be fighting for an independent Islamic state in the southern Philippines.

The two made their escape on the night of Tuesday, September 19, when confusion broke out among their captors over the best way to avoid being spotted by the Philippine military, which launched an offensive against the Abu Sayyaf over the weekend.

Le Garrec and Madura had gone to Jolo as part of a France 2 team sent to cover the hostage crisis that began on April 23, when a group of Abu Sayyaf members abducted 21 people from the Malaysian island of Sipadan. A third France 2 journalist, reporter Maryse Burgot, was also kidnapped, but she was among a group of hostages released on August 27.

While most of the Sipadan hostages have since been released, after months of negotiations and the payment of millions of dollars in ransom to the rebels, new hostages have been taken. Currently, at least 17 hostages remain missing.

At a press conference held earlier today in Manila, Le Garrec said the France 2 team went to the Abu Sayyaf camp believing they would be free to return. “If we had not been 100 percent sure, we would not have gone there,” he said. But after interviewing rebel leader Galib Andang, also known as Commander Robot, the journalists realized they had been tricked.

The Abu Sayyaf reportedly has earned millions of dollars in ransom payments since embarking on its kidnapping spree this spring. The group has grown from fewer than 200 men in March to more than 3,000 today, according to the Philippine military.

In the course of covering the crisis on Jolo, 15 foreign and Filipino journalists have been kidnapped since June 1. Der Spiegel correspondent Andreas Lorenz, who was kidnapped on two separate occasions by members of the Abu Sayyaf, has written an exclusive story for CPJ in which he describes his experience as a reporter turned hostage.



Kidnapped journalists vulnerable as military launches assault against Jolo rebels   (Sept. 14, 2000)

Release of kidnapped French journalists delayed amid factional fighting  (Sept. 11, 2000)

As hostage crisis drags on, release of three French journalists is delayed  (August 17, 2000)  

French journalists may be released tomorrow  (August 16, 2000)  

Journalists leave Jolo as hostage crisis continues  (July 31, 2000)

Rebel group frees German reporter; five other journalists still held hostage  (July 27, 2000)

Muslim militants abduct two Filipino journalists; four kidnapped foreign journalists still in captivity (July 24, 2000)

More journalists kidnapped  (July 10, 2000)

German journalists captured by rebels  (July 5, 2000)