French Journalists Vulnerable As Philippines Launches Military Assault In Jolo CPJ Exclusive: One Former Hostage Recounts His Ordeal

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New York, September 18, 2000—As Philippine military forces pursue rebels on the island of Jolo, Der Spiegel correspondent Andreas Lorenz, who spent much of July as a hostage on Jolo, examines the ethical challenges journalists face when they pursue extremely dangerous stories.

Lorenz, who was kidnapped on two separate occasions by members of the Abu Sayyaf, self-styled Islamic rebels, has written an exclusive story for this site in which he responds to those journalists who criticized his return to Jolo after his first hostage experience. “They argued that the kidnapping was the consequence of my reckless search for sensational stories.” Lorenz writes.

“Journalists covering crises have to take certain risks to ensure that news gets out–in this case, news about the plight of the 21 hostages. Moreover, it is our responsibility to describe the atmosphere, the political background, and the main players in the game. To do this well, journalists need to stay close to the action. But at the same time, they have to make sure that they are not taking unnecessary risks.”

Lorenz’s report comes out in the midst of a military offensive that the Philippine government launched on September 16, further jeopardizing the lives of two French journalists held hostage on Jolo since July 9. France 2 television cameraman Jean-Jacques Le Garrec and sound engineer Roland Madura are among at least 19 hostages who remain captive on the island. CPJ is deeply concerned about the safety of these two journalists, along with the other hostages, and urges the Philippine government to take every possible precaution to guarantee their safety.

Philippine officials say they believe the hostages are still alive, but fear they may be used as human shields. France 2’s Manila-based correspondent reported that Abu Sayyaf leader Galib Andang, known as Commander Robot, had anticipated the attack by the Philippine army and left his camp Friday night, taking the journalists with him.

CPJ is also disturbed by the military’s imposition of a news blackout on Saturday, which has made it difficult for journalists to get details about the offensive and the fate of the hostages.

Click here to read Andreas Lorenz’s account of how he was abducted, what he endured–and why.