Journalists in a quandary over escalating food, hotel prices


  • Nation
  • Monday, 14 Apr 2003

KUALA LUMPUR: The escalating prices of food and hotel rooms in Baghdad may soon place the nine Malaysian journalists in further predicament after the life-threatening episode three of them experienced on Saturday. 

“A night’s hotel stay in the Sheraton (Hotel) is now US$1,000 (RM3,800) and other hotels may cost even more. Our journalists have no choice but to pay,” said Joint Media Team Malaysia leader Datuk Ahmad Talib from Amman, Jordan yesterday. 

Speaking to the Deputy Information Minister Datuk Zainuddin Mydin and journalists here via videophone, Ahmad said the team was safe but things had not been easy. 

They had resorted to sharing food like instant noodles, biscuits and bread to cut costs, he said. 

“And they have to walk up and down 17 flights of stairs to get to their rooms every day,” he added.  

Ahmad, who is also NST group editor, said communication was difficult and he had to wait for the journalists to contact him from Baghdad to know the latest developments as there was no electricity and the communication network had been destroyed. 

On the three team members who were kidnapped and later released, he said: “They were all shocked but are still highly motivated.” 

Earlier, RTM cameraman Shahruddin Ibrahim, who also spoke to Zainuddin from Amman, said the three were not harmed because they were Malaysians. 

“Once the Iraqis found out they were Malaysians, our journalists were treated well,” he said.  

Zainuddin said arrangements were being made to send money to the cash-strapped JMTM members in Baghdad so that they could either continue their mission or return home. 

Asked if anything would be done to ensure their safety, Zainuddin said the journalists knew the risks involved in entering a country at war. 

“However, we are doing our best to help them in every way we can,” he said, calling on family members of the journalists and Mercy Malaysia staff in Baghdad to put their trust in the Government to monitor the situation and report to them from time to time. 

 

The ministry has put together the JMTM to cover the war from a Malaysian and humanitarian angle.  

 

The team will also evaluate whether Malaysia will be able to play a peacekeeping role in post-war Iraq.  

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