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News Highlights

Journalist shares lessons learned from experience of “being kidnapped”

Journalist shares lessons learned from experience of “being kidnapped”

Wednesday, 04 April 2018

Journalists should do their due diligence before jumping at “exclusive interview” opportunities, said Arab News Southeast Asia bureau chief Baker Atyani. He was speaking at a session titled ’18-Month Interview’ at the 17th edition of the Arab Media Forum (AMF) in Dubai.

Organised under the patronage of Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, AMF 2018 was held at the Madinat Jumeirah from 3-4 April.

Atyani was speaking about his experience of being held captive for 18 months by the Abu Sayyaf Group in southern Philippines. “I should have been more vigilant and done my due diligence. I should not have believed the person who promised to arrange the interview,” he said. “During the process of arranging the interview, there were many red flags that I didn’t pay attention to,” he said.

Atyani said that his Filipino coordinator said he was tied up with his work in Manila but had arranged all interviews, including the interview with the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) leader, and made all the arrangements for his visit to Zamboanga City and Sulu Island. “He kept saying, my brother, you will be in good hands,” said Atyani.

He said that his coordinator arranged the accommodation for him and his team at Sulu Students Hostel and insisted that he refuse to stay with the governor of the island or the Mayor of Jolo. “They should not know about our plans to meet with ASG leader,” the coordinator told Atyani.

I spent 18 months in captivity, in the heart of the Sulu jungle, living among ignorant people, to say the least. “I was astonished by their ignorance and could hardly believe what I heard from them in the first six months of my captivity. But soon, I realised the jungle had its own world disconnected from the outside,” Atyani said.

Atyani said that this experience deeply affected him and also taught him not to take things for granted. The experience also taught him to listen more and talk less, adding that “journalists talk rubbish sometimes.”

The 17th edition of the AMF brought together more than 3,000 prominent regional and international media figures and thought leaders. Apart from high-profile local speakers, the two-day event featured 50 speakers representing 20 countries from across the Arab region and the world. Under the theme ‘Impactful Media Trends’, prominent media personalities, writers, influencers and academics shared their views on diverse issues at the Forum with the aim of forging a new vision for the media.

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