Taken Hostage: Baker Atyundi

“I was subjected to mental and physical abuse, and spent many days without food and water, with threat of death and violence at the hands of my captors”

We view the world through the lens of a camera and understand it, by the text of the writers. For most of us, that is good enough, but for some – it’s just the tip of the iceberg. My career began in Pakistan, a year after the 1996 Afghan Taliban rise to power. Personally, it was the best time to kick start my conflict zone reporting career. Meeting the Taliban echelons in Pakistan and Afghanistan became a regular part of my news assignments. No visuals were allowed throughout this process, Therefore due diligence and cultural awareness are a crucial part of your planning. However, my continued interactions with them gave me access to visit Kabul. It was a rare opportunity to film there since the takeover of Taliban.

Although filming was prohibited I continued covertly to produce images and video of the current situation. One evening, a Taliban representative visited me in the hotel, and warned me that the Taliban were coming to confiscate my footage. I then decided to leave the city immediately before any actions were taken I then crossed the border into Pakistan. Then in 1998 Pakistan conducted a nuclear test in response to India. From Pakistan’s fall of democracy in the 1999 military coup, to the June 2001 when I interviewed Osama Bin Laden, and al-Zawahiri. After an amount of small talk was discussed, the interview was finalised “small talk but a significant threat from Bin Laden, that the coming weeks will see an unexpected action; the coffin business will flourish in the States”.

Followed by the execution of 9/11, up to the Bali bombing in 2002 and 2005. In August 2008, I exclusively interviewed Iran’s most wanted militant Abdul Malik Rigi Secretly entering the death triangle between Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan. For me, reporting on such events had become part of my drive to find the truth even in the smallest corner of the world. And a drive to get closer to the truth, which took me to the jungles of Southern Philippines and into the heart of the Mindanao conflict where rebels and militants were fighting for independence.

I arrived in Manila, Philippines to produce two special reports, one, focusing on the conflict between the Government and Militant groups. My Filipino ENG crew, Ramil and Rolando were hired through a  Manila based production house. On my request they contacted a fixer, to assist in setting up an ASG leader’s interview. The local journalist set up the interview after I reluctantly paid 10,000 pesos about $220 dollars – a demand he claimed was from the militant group. I was a bit skeptical But I let the notion of a setup slide. During my assignment the other team members and I were unfortunately taken hostage and held for 18 months in captivity, and my colleagues for 10 months.

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