By GENALYN D. KABILING
DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani should be banned from returning to the country once he surfaces from interviewing the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo said yesterday.
In an interview with reporters at the sidelines of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) convention on local governance here, Robredo recommended to the Department of Justice (DoJ) and Bureau of Immigration (BI) to enforce the travel ban against Atyani due to the “trouble” and “deception” he has caused.
So far, Robredo said the government has not launched any search and rescue operations for Atyani and his two Filipino companions because they are “safe” and not under threat at the hands of the ASG based on the latest government information.
“We are recommending from here on not to allow the Jordanian journalist because first, we are following protocol to ensure their safety. There was an element of deception in what he did. He should have at least informed us about his plans,” Robredo said in an interview with reporters in Davao City.
“If you imperil yourself and you create problems for us, I think he should be prohibited from coming here. Even if we say that he ignored our protocol, we still have the responsibility in this case,” he added.
Prohibiting Atyani from visiting the Philippines will also be “for his own good and his own security,” according to Robredo.
The DILG chief disclosed that the government has already established contact with Atyani and his two Filipino crewmen, adding they are “not being harmed or threatened” by the Abu Sayyaf in Patikul, Sulu. He noted that Atyani is producing a documentary about the Abu Sayyaf using the style of the spy movie “Mission Impossible.”
“Our assumption is he went there for an interview and he is safe,” Robredo said. “As of now, we will wait and see,” he added.
Robredo also expressed concern for the safety of the two Filipinos hired by the foreign journalist. But he said Atyani has taken responsibility for his two companions.
Robredo likewise urged Atyani to complete his interview with the Abu Sayyaf group soon, adding that the journalist will be undergo debriefing by authorities. He claimed that Atyani has traveled to the country several times but became “uncooperative” in his latest visit in Sulu.