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Karaoke bar owners assault cameraman in southern Philippines

Three foreign nationals running an allegedly illegal roadside eatery and karaoke bar in Zamboanga City assaulted a member of a news crew on 11 December 2013. The news crew was covering the arrest of the eatery owners on charges of creating a public disturbance.

Zamboanga City, on the island of Mindanao, is some 1,800 kilometers south of Manila.

The police identified two of the foreigners as Iranians Abdel Kamal and Mohammad Mohaimi. According to the police, Kamal choked cameraman Paul John Gotib and smashed his camera.

Working for Radio Mindanao Network (RMN) Zamboanga, Gotib was getting footage of Kamal and Mohaimi who were then arguing with the police. People in the nearby Zamboanga Children's Hospital had complained to the police about the noise from the karaoke bar.

RMN Zamboanga reporter Merasol Montez told CMFR on 13 January 2014 that she went to the scene with another reporter, Dan Toribio, and cameraman Daryl Canillo to back up Gotib.

But Montez said they encountered a Lebanese friend of the Iranians who dared them to a fight. She later identified this person as Fahad A. Hamdan.

“(Hamdan) kept slapping my hand until my smart phone fell to the ground,” Montez said.

“He remains at large. He owns the computer shop beside the eatery. Kamal and Mohaimi said they do not know him and that he was just a customer,” Montez explained.

Police officers were present during the incident. Montez complained that they did not do anything to stop either Kamal or Hamdan.

Investigator Jerich Ambrona said the officers who were there did their best to defuse the situation.

RMN Zamboanga station manager Joel Samson said they will file charges. The Iranians have been in police custody since the incident.

The Zamboanga City chief of the local licensing division, Benjie Barredo, was also already at the scene ordering the closure of the eatery by the time Montez and her group arrived there.

According to a report from the Mindanao Examiner, the eatery had been padlocked in the past due to several violations of business regulations, but continued to operate anyway, with the addition of a karaoke machine, which was not included in the original permit.

There were no reporters from other stations, Montez said. “We were the only ones there. The eatery was very near our station.”

Meanwhile, the Zamboanga Press Club in a statement released on 13 January 2014 condemned the “physical abuse, grave threats and harassment” the RMN news crew experienced.

“We, from the Zamboanga Press Club, are demanding (that) the law enforcers… ensure (that) these arrogant and abusive foreigners will languish in jail or be deported back to the place where they came from,” the statement said.

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