View Full Version : Malaysian war journalists abducted by Iraqi militants

13-04-2003, 11:12 AM
<font size="+1"><font color="red">Our journalists in trouble</font></font>

<blockquote><font size="+1"><font color="red">UPDATE:</font></font> <font size="+1"><font face="georgia"><i>theSun</i> deputy editor <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/talking_point/2883007.stm">R Nadeswaran</a> has confirmed (10:14:59 Sunday) my enquiry that Terry Fernendez has indeed been abducted.</font></font></blockquote>

<b>Fate unknown.</b> <i>Nanyang Siang Pau </i>Klang Valley final edition frontpaged this today: Three journalists from the <a href="http://www.thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2003/4/5/nation/ccinfo&sec=nation">Joint Media Team Malaysia (JMTM)</a> who were making frontline reporting from Baghdad have been taken away by Iraqi militants after their local guide was shot dead point-blank.

The missing journalists were <b>Terence Fernendez </b>from <i>The Sun</i>, photographer <b>Mohamed Anuar Hashim </b>from <i>The NST </i>and <b>Omar Salleh </b>from <i>Bernama.</i>

However, none of the Malaysian news websites - including <i>Nanyang </i>- had updated this news item at the time I blogged this.

Friday (April 11), nine JMTM journalists arrived safely in Baghdad after going through various <a href="http://www3.bernama.com/B2002v2/news.shtml?general/ge1104_22">life-threatening obstacles</a>. <i>NST</i>'s <b><a href="http://www3.bernama.com/B2002v2/news.shtml?general/ge1104_22">Shamsul Akmar Musa Kamal</a></b> had a gun pointed at him by a border guard on the Jordanian side of the border when he tried to walk across the boundary.

I blogged on their first <a href="http://http://www.jeffooi.blogspot.com/2003_04_06_jeffooi_archive.html#92475431">close-call </a>yesterday.

Let's pray for our countrymen's safety.

Read my blog <a href="http://www.jeffooi.blogspot.com/2003_04_13_jeffooi_archive.html#92511310">here</a>.

13-04-2003, 12:50 PM
<font size="+1"><font color="red">Mercy Malaysia doctors shot at;
Journalists abducted probably for ransom.</font></font>

<font size="+1"><font color="red">UPDATE:</font></font> <font size="+1"><font face="georgia"><i>The NST</i> has <a href="http://www.nst.com.my/Current_News/NST/Sunday/Frontpage/20030413093021/Article/">updated</a> on this news a while ago (April 13, 12:34pm):</font></font>
<blockquote><font face="georgia">BAGHDAD, April 13 (10:15am): <b><a href="http://www.mercy.org.my/">Malaysian Medical Relief Society</a> (Mercy)</b> president Datuk <b>Dr Jemilah Mahmood</b>, her colleague <b>Dr Baba Deni </b>and a third unidentified doctor have been <u>shot by unknown gunmen</u> outside Baghdad this morning (Baghdad time).

An Iraqi interpreter, who was with the three Malaysian doctors in the 4WD which was part of a convoy comprising the <a href="http://www.jeffooi.blogspot.com/2003_04_13_jeffooi_archive.html#92511310">Malaysian media</a>, was shot dead.

Three Malaysians journalists <b>Annuar Hashim</b>, (<i>New Straits Times </i>photographer), <b>Terrence Fernandez </b>(<i>The Sun </i>reporter) and an unidentified RTM cameraman were abducted after the shooting. Their whereabouts or conditions are still unknown.

The three journalists were in a second 4WD behind the shot Mercy Malaysia 4WD.

The three mercy Malaysia volunteers' condition is unknown although <i>Mingguan Malaysia </i>reported today <i>(online version not available)</i> that their condition are stable. They are being treated at a Baghdad hospital.

Mercy Malaysia is in Iraq to help war refugees and provide medical assistance wherever they are needed.


Meanwhile, Acting Prime Minister Datuk Seri <b>Abdullah Ahmad Badawi </b>pledged that the Government will help the abducted journalists in any way possible.

He also appeal for help from any parties who can secure the journalists' release.

"I advise our journalists in Iraq to use their discretion whether to stay in or leave Baghdad," he said in Penang. "They know the situation best."</font></blockquote>

A senior member of the press corp, who has been keeping in touch with <i>Wisma Putra</i>, informed me that the Malaysian journalists were probably abducted for ransom. The impression given was that the Malaysian government will pay, if necessary, to get them back hale and hearty.

I call upon all Malaysians to devote a little prayer for their safe return.

Read my blog <a href="http://www.jeffooi.blogspot.com/2003_04_13_jeffooi_archive.html#92516002">here</a>, datelined 12:47 Sunday.

13-04-2003, 03:35 PM
all the journalists i've seen on the telly have been travelling either with the coalition, or stationed at the palestine hotel, which is heavily guarded. most of them on BBC note how dangerous the situation is if one is to go out alone, i.e. without military escorts.

from what i gather the malaysian journalists were doing that. considering the situation, that is very dangerous and cocky behaviour that has risked their lives and caused the death of
their interpreter. if this was the case, poor judgement was applied.


13-04-2003, 04:33 PM
Sunday, April 13, 2003
Posted 2:47 PM by Jeff Ooi

<font size="+1">Journalists released unharmed</font>

An AP story datedlined Kuala Lumpur and picked up by Washington Post at 3:15 AM EST (3.15pm Malaysia Time) has this good news:

Deputy PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced that abductors have release unharmed the three Malaysian Journalists - Terence Fernandez, a reporter for The Sun, Anuar Hashim, a New Straits Times photographer, and Omar Salleh, a cameraman with Radio Television Malaysia (RTM).

They were sent to a Baghdad hospital, according to Zukri Valenteno Ali, a spokesman for the Malaysian media team speaking from Amman, Jordan.

Two doctors who have been helping to treat Iraqis - Jemilah Mahmood, president of the Malaysian Medical Relief Society, and Baba Deani - were wounded, but were recovering in a hospital.

The Malaysian doctors and journalists were attacked by gunmen while traveling in two vans early Saturday from the Sheraton Hotel in the Iraqi capital to a hospital. Washignton Post and San Jose Mercury News both say:

Baghdad has been swept by waves of looting and lawlessness since U.S. forces moved in and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's hold on the capital was shattered. The U.S. military and the Iraqis have agreed to joint patrols to restore order.

Abdullah said the remaining Malaysian journalists should leave Baghdad "if the situation is panicky." He urged the United States to "take the initiative" to rein in the chaos in Baghdad as soon as possible.

Bernama has dispatched a newsflash earlier. No other details were immediately available.

My blog: <a href="http://www.jeffooi.blogspot.com/2003_04_13_jeffooi_archive.html#92520302">here</a>

13-04-2003, 11:59 PM
In the first place why the hell are they sent there for. We were made to understand that they were there to report the truth. What is truth? Does that mean that all reports coming out from the battle fronts are all half truth? It cost us a fraction of the cost of acquiring all the news from the Western and Arab sources than having to send our novice war reporters there and risk their lives there. When I read how they were chasing the news, I was laughing to myself. One of our ministers even insinuated that they could be shot by the Americans! Why then send these journalists there and so many of them too? I think we have gone too far this time. What does it matter to us what the hell is going on there - whether the American bombed and killed the children or the Iraqi suicide bombers killed the Americans. What I don't want to read is that our journalists are killed there which they nearly were - TWICE!. I believe charity begins at home. Let us start reporting the truth right here. There are so many news reported in our regular press that are controlled and there are news that don't even get reported. If we do truly enjoy Press freedom, there won't exist a Malaysiakini. We need not be busybody reporting things that happened a thousand miles away and risk our lives when there are so many things that need to be reported in our own backyard and yet we suppressed many of them. There was a joke about our press. When a minister who was often misquoted by the press was asked which of the press was the leading newspaper in Malaysia, he replied, "None of them because all are misleading."

14-04-2003, 12:28 AM
i respect the journalists for making the journey. i'm sure they were aware of the risks, and unlike many out there, were willing to risk their lives for the sake of the news and the truth.

i do think that it is a good thing that they go abroad and cover other sources, but if we don't have a manpower as big as that of reuters or the bbc, best stay at home and cover the stories, buy the rest off other sources.

on the other hand they may want to get a "malaysian perspective" to things. this war is pretty big anyway.

i do think we have the capabilities of being as big as other media, if we so much as put our hearts to it. look at al-jazeera for instance. they started small out of qatar, now they're one of the most respected in the world, certainly the most respected arab news sources.

but i do agree with pcyeoh, that things have to start at home. for one, is our reporting really 100% accurate, truthful, and delivered at the top of the hour? we have yet to reach "the BBC standard" i do believe.

this time around, i think malaysian journalists should learn an important lesson. while it is a good idea to chase a good story, it is wise to stick with the coalition forces, i.e. the military who would protect you. although there is a chance you may get shot by them by accident, the likelihood is far greater they will fall victim to the iraqi militants.


14-04-2003, 07:53 AM
I think this has got to do with one's conviction to his chosen profession.

There's no should or shouldn't, black or white, right or wrong.

Not many have these qualities around us, these days.

* * *

<font size="+1"><font color="red">Journalists report the news, not make the headlines</font></font>

<font size="+1">Harrowing time for the editor.
<img src="http://www.usj.com.my/Upload/uploads/20030414_terence_300x.jpg" align="left" vspace="10" hspace="10"> <font face="georgia"><i>theSun</i> deputy editor R. Nadeswaran rushed to his office before 8.00am yesterday. Unusual routine for him as it was a Sunday. His chief reporter Terence Fernandez has been abducted by militiamen in Baghdad the night before. He has many phonecalls to make. To get information, to seek help.

He told me this: <i>"It had been a harrowing day for me at the office, but nothing is more satisfying to note that our boy is still there, making me proud of being a journalist, his colleague, friend and confidante."</i></font></font>

<i>theSun</i> doesn't have a website, so I transcribe in full what has been a torturing day for an editor:

<i>Picture above: <b>SURVIVAL OF THE POWER TRIO</b>...From left: Fernandez, Omar and Anuar. - Pix by Kamaruddin Ahmad (JMTM)</i>
<blockquote><font face="georgia"><font size="+1">Journalists report the news, not make the headlines</font>

<b><i>Dear readers,</i></b>

IN his first e-mail from Amman in Jordan, chief reporter, <b>Terence Fernandez </b>wrote: <i>From what I have been gathering from people here, I don't know if I am here to report the news or make the news.</i>

Having read first-hand reports and having watched how journalists at the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad had been killed, he filed a report on the mood of the media crew gathered in Amman.

"Doesn't sound too good, but we are making arrangments to cross border later this eveing. Zero-two hundred-hours, Malaysian time," he said over the phone last Wednesday.

He was told in no uncertain terms: Safety comes before everything. <u>No story is worth your life</u>.

Within three days of stepping foot on Iraqi soil, he has done both - reported and made the news.

Dubious or otherwise, it is an honour which no journalist wants to accorded, but the consolation is that he came out of a life-threatening situation to file a first-person account, which appears elsewhere on this page. <i>(Read Terence's story on Pages 1 and 2 today).</i>

It speaks volumes of his conviction, dedication and commitment to his chosen profession.

It also tells us of his courage - banging on the laptop, just hours after being led away with the barrel of a gun pointed to his head.

If he had an indication of what was to come, he did not hide it.

After going through a harrowing experience of being shot at by Iraqi bandits in Fanuja, about 100km from Baghdad on Thursday night, Terence filed his report with these words: <i>"As the journey continued (towards Baghdad), the most weary from fear dozed off, waking up at every bump and sudden braking of the vehcile.

"I clutched the rosary given to me by my parish priest, Father Simon Laboooy so hard that it left imprints in my palms. When another checkpoint came up, all I could think of was: 'Why does a newly-married man take up an assignment such as this?'"</i>

Yesterday evening, Terence answered his own question. Shortly after being released and escorted to his hotel room, he called the office.

"I will be filing a report - a first person account of what happened," he said over the telephone.

How long would it take?

"It will be there in an hour," was his prompt reply.

Speaking about the conditions in Baghdad, he said: "It's too dangerous out here. They (the Malaysian government officials) are trying to get us out of here."

But until he is taken out, our readers will continue to read his reports in this newspaper.

<b><i>The Editor.</i></b></font></blockquote>

Now, go grab a copy of <i>The Sun </i>today. Front page headline:

<center><font size="+3">Bargain with God</font>
<font size="+1">Our man relates his ordeal under a hail of bullets</font></center>

I won't transcribe Terence's story so soon. I want you to get a copy of the paper (Seven Eleven, McDonald's etc), I want you to read his story and feel the trembles in your hands.

Terence almost paid his life to get you the news.

<i>* <a href="mailto:jeffooi@usj.com.my">Send me an email</a>
* <a href="mailto:jeffooi@usj.com.my">Suggest a column/blog topic</a></i>

I blogged it <a href="http://jeffooi.blogspot.com/2003_04_13_jeffooi_archive.html#92548480">here</a>.

15-04-2003, 04:33 PM
While respect those that made the trip there, I question the necessity of the trip itself. Why do we need to reinvent the wheel. We need not believe all that is said by the western press or the arabic press. It is for us to see and decide for ourselves who is the greater liar. It is absolutely not neccessary for our scribes to act like a hero in the hope that the iraqis would recognise malaysians as their brothers who have condemned the us on their behalf. You think they give a hoot who we are or they care? They are jeopardizing their own lives and as they rightly said be the news rather than the reporter of the news.

If only they can have the same courage to write about the ills that has befallen our country, from the corruption to the nepotism to the rich and powerful being able to get away with anything. If only they have the courage to write about the excesses of the priviledged class. There are still so many news worthy stories that can be had in our own backyard or do they think that would be too risky?!!!!!

15-04-2003, 08:11 PM
I would like to say that these journalist deserves every respect from all of us for they are willing to trade their lives for something they believe in. The dedication to their job shows the sacrifices they are willing to make. How many of us today really believe in something we do?
They are willing to risk their life, travel hours and hours, eat unfamiliar food, sleep on uncomfortable and dirty bed.. to do something they've always wanted to do.
I know coz in my line of work, I go through what they go through but without the bullets. I risk my life in unchartered areas in East Malaysia taking longboats across croc and pirate infested rivers and seas. Not to mention driving on slippery roads with deep ravines on either side ...just to provide communications and Internet to the rural community. And I believe in and enjoy what I do. I've gotten lost in jungles, my jeep skidded 180 degrees, boat caught on sand bunks in the middle of the sea, being threaten by villagers with home made rifles and machetes for trespassing their village.... A lot of hardship compared to what I have in USJ.
So, last but not least..I take my hats off for these guys and I hope you guys keep up the good work.

P/S: As for Terence Fernandez, I'm a Kelantanese myself and I'm proud to know that ado ore Kelate gi doh tanoh Iraq. Good luck.

15-04-2003, 08:51 PM
Malaysia Boleh! I think the journalists went to the war zone risking their lives just that they can prove this point. The guys deserve a good try, never mind they do not succeed. A lot better than those who had ealier on gone insane screaming and wanting to go jihad for Saddam but changed their mind after the Fadayeen fell like a deck of cards.

15-04-2003, 09:16 PM
while i do admire them for their work and courage, it still begs the question...

1. why were they out there with cars with carplates of "the enemy",

2. why weren't they escorted by coalition troops,

3. why didn't they stick to the hotel palestine and other safe havens for foreign journalists?

were unnecessary risks taken?

i do believe in getting a good story, but there has to be safechecks in place. sometimes a piece of news is not as precious as someone's life!


16-04-2003, 03:22 AM
Seems like no one is troubled with the killings of the two people who had accompanied 'our heroes' in this 'egoistic' trip. This unfortunate incident would not have happened, if we really understood the need for this adventure.

So much for your Malaysians, foresight(or was it vison?)!

16-04-2003, 05:00 AM
you're so right liz.

as i mentioned, it's puzzling why they didn't do enough research and just went in.

especially since malaysia is not so experienced in this "forefront of the news" thing, it would have been advisable if they had stuck to the hotel palestine as well as with the coalition troops, or at least gotten some help with a more established media.

it was ridiculous to be touring baghdad alone. the war is real, it's still on. it's not an adventure.

and liz, you're right.... two innocent men have died. they probably wanted to go in and make a few extra bucks for the family at home, who will never see them because of this fatal mistake.

i hope others will think twice before they put themselves and others' in harms way.


16-04-2003, 08:21 AM
<font size="+1"><font color="red"><i>theSun</i> orders Terence to come home ASAP</font></font>

<b>Forget the stories. Time to leave.</b> <i>theSun</i> has ordered its chief reporter <a href="http://www.usj.com.my/usjXpress/details.php3?table=usjXpress&ID=320"><b>Terence Fernandez</b></a> to leave Baghdad at the first available opportunity. The paper says "It is our decision, and our decision alone." <a href="http://jeffooi.blogspot.com/2003_04_13_jeffooi_archive.html#92548480">No story is worth a journalist's life</a>.

Terence is one of nine journalists sponsored under <b><a href="http://www.jeffooi.blogspot.com/2003_04_13_jeffooi_archive.html#92511310">Joint Media Team Malaysia </a> (JMTM)</b> - using taxpayers' money - and sent to cover news in the war zone Baghdad.

The rest - some 31 of them, including chef de mission Ahmad A. Talib - are relatively "safe and sound" reporting from 5-star hotel rooms in Amman, Jordan.

In contrast, Terence and his colleagues are stuck in Baghdad. There is no electricity for the JMTM journalists to charge the batteries of their laptops and satellite phones

Last week, Terence <a href="http://www.usj.com.my/usjXpress/details.php3?table=usjXpress&ID=320">survived </a>two gunfire attacks en route to and reporting in Baghdad.

Editor of <i>theSun</i> wrote in Page 2 today:
<blockquote><font size="+1"><font face="georgia">"No use wasting taxpayers' money if there is nothing fruitful he can do."</font></font></blockquote>

I will blog on the JMTM misadventures later. More information is coming in.

<i>* <a href="mailto:jeffooi@usj.com.my">Send me an email</a>
* <a href="mailto:jeffooi@usj.com.my">Suggest a column/blog topic</a></i>

I blogged this this <a href="http://jeffooi.blogspot.com/2003_04_13_jeffooi_archive.html#92607884">here</a>.

16-04-2003, 12:51 PM
The moral of the story is

"It is safer to be shot at in Iraq reporting the truth that does not matter much to most Malaysians and return a hero than to be a smart alec here doing the same thing."

17-04-2003, 01:30 AM
pcyeoh, how can you say most malaysians don't care about what is happening in iraq? have you seen the kind of solidarity, protests, and sympathy for the iraqis in malaysia or by malaysians worldwide?

and i don't think it's very fair to say terence fernandez and his crew are smart alecks, in any sense. firstly, it is not easy being a journalist in general. there are a lot of personal sacrifices that one makes, and the responsibility that stems from it is great.

secondly, i think it's respectable and admirable they risked their lives to bring us the news. (to quote jeff) i don't think a lot of ppl would be willing to do that or feel as strongly as they do for their work. this i cannot and will not condemn or mock.

while we should be improving on the reporting at home, malaysia should go abroad and find things out from *our perspective*, instead of having to rely on either the western or arab media for this particular issue, or foreign media for others'. considering there aren't many big asian names out there, if we could be the forefront in south east asia with journalism, that would create 1. a market for us, 2. a voice. wouldn't that be nice.

information holds the key to everything.


26-04-2003, 08:08 AM
This is excerpts of a well written article I stumbled online. I've never heard of this guy MG Pillai before, but he carries his views well. A must read.



THE ANGLO-AMERICAN INVASION, NEVER MIND the non-existent coalition of the willing to be bought, has turned Iraq into a wasteland. The horrific casualties, on a rough ratio of one Anglo-American to every 1,000 Iraqi deaths, beggars belief. It was a colonial war, for that is the ratio of colonial to native deaths in the colonial wars of the past five hundred years. The newspapers and television stations have recorded the invasion and now that it is over, the destruction, on the scale that the Mongol Hulegu Khan a millennium earlier would have approved. Where once the Tigris and the Euphrates flowed in black ink from the tens of thousands of books from what was then the most complete library then in the known world, today the skies of Baghdad is grey with the smoke from the books and manuscripts burnt. But we learn of this from foreign sources, not from the two Malaysian teams in Baghdad. When Malaysia does not have a tradition of foreign correspondence, and its foreign correspondents do not even begin to report on their countries they are accredited to. The star sent a three-man team to Jordan and Baghdad, and the reports they file are but crime and accident stories in a foreign land. Not to be outdone, the Malaysian government sent its own team, the so-called Joint Media Team Malaysia, of a hotchpotch of Malaysian journalists from English, Malay and Tamil newspapers firmly in the UMNO camp.

There is little they could report, were green, did not understand the terrain, had no clue to what was in store. So their early reports were based on the difficulties of getting into Iraq, the horrendous cost in war time, the price gouging; in other words, the media team itself was the news. That its public relations officer in Malaysia is the deputy prime minister, Dato' Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi or the deputy information minister, Dato' Zainuddin Maidin, who desperately try to turn the media team into the story, is proof enough that nothing much would come out of this effort than the spending of large sums of money. But if this is the forerunner of a deliberate move by the Malaysian media to look at foreign correspondence seriously, in which reporters would be sent out to report on the countries they cover, and not so they could report on visiting Malaysian VIPs. But I doubt if it would. When there is no serious attempt to report local events not from the view of the politicians who control the newspapers but so readers could be informed of what happens in their country. Editors have lost their jobs for allowing even mildly critical reports about the government or individual cabinet ministers to appear in their newspapers.

A change cannot come if a tradition of independent reporting is not nurtured. There is nothing wrong with reporting from a national point of view, but the element of fairness, absent from the Malaysian experience, must be there. That is absent from the Malaysian mainstream press.