U.N. honors Al Arabiya’s Baker Atyani

The U.N. honored Al Arabiya’s veteran correspondent Baker Atyani, who was kidnapped and held by Filipino rebels and held for 18 months

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The United Nations Wednesday honored Al Arabiya’s veteran correspondent Baker Atyani, who was kidnapped and held by Filipino Islamist rebels and held for 18 months.

The ceremony honoring journalists for their efforts was held in New York.

The U.N. condemned violence against media workers, saying it challenges the ability of journalists to carry out their work freely and deprives citizens of receiving impartial information.

The U.N. meeting was attended by Al Arabiya’s New York Bureau Chief Talal al-Haj, who spoke about Atyani’s kidnap ordeal and how 2013 has been a difficult year for journalists around the world.

“Dear friends and colleagues, 2013 has not been a good year for journalists in general,” al-Haj said.

“71 Journalists have been killed around the world this year, an increase of 20% than last year,” he added, citing a recent report by Reporters Without Borders.

Al-Haj later introduced a 90-second film that told the story of Atyani, who was kidnapped by the extremist Islamist group Abu Sayyaf in June 2012.

Atyani, a veteran Middle Eastern TV reporter who interviewed Osama bin Laden months before the Sept. 11 attacks, arrived in Manila on June 5 to shoot a documentary film on Muslims in the south of the Philippines. Seven days later, he was kidnaped and remained in captivity until earlier this month.

“Atyani suffered extreme malnutrition and lost third of his weight in captivity and witnessed mock execution and shooting near his head and feet,” al-Haj said as he introduced the film.

“The video clip is also a tribute the solidarity of the UNCA (United Nations Correspondents Association) and numerous news organizations that helped Al-Arabiya in its difficult negotiations with the kidnappers to secure his freedom by casting a vale of silence on the negotiations.

“The 90 seconds video is actually a token of tribute to every journalist paying a heavy price to tell the story, sometimes it is the ultimate price,” al-Haj said.

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