The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned for the safety of abducted radio anchorman Joey Estriber from Baler town in Aurora province in the Philippines.
According to IFJ affiliate, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), Estriber, 37, commentator and anchorperson of radio program Pag-usapan Natin, of DZJO, in Baler, was taken by four men at approximately 6.20 pm on March 3, 2006.
Witnesses reported Estriber was dragged by four men and thrown face down into a maroon Besta van with tinted glasses and no number plates. Witnesses reported the van then moved south toward the central school.
Witnesses reported the van had been parked in the area hours before the abduction.
Half an hour after his abduction text messages were received from his cell phone saying, "Huwag kayong mag-alala, ok lang ako (Don't worry, I'm all right)," and "Nagtatago ako (I'm in hiding)."
It is reported that the abduction may have been in connection to Estriber’s work as a community leader in particular his involvement with the Bataris Formation Centre.
A Bataris building was burned down in December 2005, and two of its staff members were almost abducted in the same month. In February, a military officer claimed on radio that members of non-government organisations like Bataris are in the military's "order of battle."
The abduction follows the decision by president Arroyo to rescind the state of emergency declared on February 24.
While the IFJ welcomes the decision to rescind the state of emergency, we reiterate the NUJP’s calls for: the police director general, Arturo Lomibao to withdraw all previously made threats on media organisations; the National Telecommunications Commission to withdraw all orders controlling the broadcast of news and media affairs; for all programs suspended under the Proclamation 1017 to be restored and; that president Arroyo publicly announce the governments respect for the Pilipino people’s constitutional right to freedom of the press.
”While we welcome Arroyo’s rescinding of the state of emergency, we call on her to prove her commitment to the safety of journalists and a free media in the Philippines,” said IFJ president Christopher Warren.
”This includes making a commitment to secure the safe and immediate release of Joey Estriber,” said Warren.
“Without a free and independent media, true democracy is unattainable,” said Warren.
For more information on the restrictions placed on the media during the state of emergency in the Philippines see www.ifj-asia.org/page/philippines060301.html.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries