Journalist group calls for safe release of abducted filmmakers in Sulu

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/24 June)– The Peace and Conflict Journalism Network (Pecojon) has called on authorities in the Sulu archipelago to convene a crisis committee for the safe release of two independent filmmakers–sisters Linda and Nadjoua Bansil—who were abducted last Saturday.

In a statement, Len Manriquez, Pecojon’s acting national coordinator and chief of operations, said the Bansil sisters are both members of Pecojon.

In fact, she said, both were trained in 2006 and 2007 on courses on conflict-sensitive journalism (CSJ) reporting and “had since been active in using the strategies of CSJ in the documentary films that they do.”

After learning the abduction, Manriquez said she called up the mobile phone of Nadjoua but was answered by Yasir Rajim of the Sulu Sultanate Darul Islam (SSDI).

He told Manriquez he was Nadjoua’s contact in Sulu and narrated what happened, according to the statement.

“On Thursday, they arrived in Jolo and were hosted by the SSDI. On Friday morning they went to Sinumaan and stayed overnight in the area to take some shots of the sunrise. On Saturday, they started to take off to Jolo and at about 10a.m., they were kidnapped in Liang, Patikul. They were on board a jeepney and the road was blocked by armed men,” Manriquez said, citing Rajim’s narration.

Manriquez said that Rajim told her that they were not able to stop the kidnappers from taking the sisters.

“The kidnappers were armed and the SSDIs were not. He also said that they insisted to be taken as well but the kidnappers only wanted to take the two ladies,” she said.

Manriquez also cited an article from the Manila Bulletin, written by reporter Edd K. Usman, which denied reports that the Bansil sisters are working as press relation officers of the sultanate.

The Bansil sisters, according to Manriquez, are independent filmmakers and “human rights defenders.”

“Their films are based on issues on human rights, the Moro culture and extractive industries such as mining. They are Moro women concerned on the plight and preservation of the culture of the Moro people,” she explained.

The sisters, although born to an Algerian father, have settled in the Philippines since 1982.

“Both are already Filipino citizens,” said Manriquez, quoting Muhammad, the sisters’ youngest brother.

In 2012, the Bansil sisters produced “Bohe: Sons of the Waves,” a film that tells the story of a group of Badjaos who found a home in a tiny patch of land in southern Luzon they called “Badjawan Island.”

Bohe, the first ever film on Badjao, was screened in the 2012 Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival and in the Cebu Documentary International Film Festival.

This year, Bohe was nominated in the Gawad Urian Awards.

Manriquez said that for a long time, Nadjoua has been eyeing a story of coffee growers in Mindanao.

“When the contacts were established, she decided to take her sister Linda with her to shoot the film,” she added.

Suspected Abu Sayyaf members abducted the sisters.

“There has been no information on what the kidnappers want,” Manriquez said. (Malu Cadelina Manar/MindaNews)