April 5, 2000
His Excellency Joseph Ejercito Estrada
President of the Republic of the Philippines
VIA FAX: +63-2-735-6152
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply disturbed by the recent assassination attempt made against Zamzamin Ampatuan, host of the daily news and cultural affairs program "Radio Kalimudan," broadcast by the Roman Catholic radio station dxMS in Cotabato City on the island of Mindanao.
On March 27, at 10:15 p.m., around 14 armed men ambushed Ampatuan as he was returning home from the radio station after recording that night's edition of "Radio Kalimudan." The attackers opened fire, killing one of Ampatuan's military escorts, Arturo Maraya, and injuring five other bodyguards. Amapatuan was wounded in the left foot.
The journalist was hospitalized for five days. He was first taken to a civilian hospital, but later transferred to a military facility, Camp Siongco Station Hospital, for security reasons. He was released on April 2, and has since been staying at his residence under heavy military protection.
Ampatuan told CPJ that he has received numerous death threats as a result of his on-air criticism of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and of Islamic extremism generally. Police suspect the MILF, a rebel group fighting for an independent Islamic state on Mindanao, was behind the assassination attempt. They identified some of the assailants as MILF members, according to Ampatuan.
The journalist had been taking extra security measures ever since February 27, when a bomb exploded outside the dxMS studios during the broadcast of "Radio Kalimudan." At the time, Cotabato City police said the bomb's intended target was Ampatuan.
As an organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of our colleagues around the world, CPJ is gravely concerned about the safety of Zamzamin Ampatuan. We are heartened by the efforts of the local police and armed forces to provide heightened security for Ampatuan, but urge Your Excellency to ensure that a thorough investigation is undertaken so that those responsible for this crime may be brought to justice.
We thank you for your attention to this urgent matter, and await your response.
Ann K. Cooper