Wednesday 23 February 2011

Press freedom groups concern for journalist missing in Libya as media crackdown intensifies

As more people take to the streets in the Middle East ands North Africa to demand democratic reforms and change, the authorities in these countries are responding with violence and are cracking down on the journalists who try to cover these protests, press freedom campaign group Reporters Without Borders has warned.

Libya: Reporters Without Borders has been unable to obtain any information as to the whereabouts of Atef El-Atrash, a journalist with the newspaper Quryna, since 18 February, a day after he spoke on Al Jazeera about the demonstrations in Benghazi.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists says it is alarmed by the ongoing deterioration of conditions for the media in the Middle East, including the disappearance of Atef El-Atrash. "The Libyan authorities and their supporters should know that violence against journalists reporting on political turmoil will not be tolerated," said Robert Mahoney, CPJ's deputy director. "We are concerned for the safety of all journalists, in particular Atef al-Atrash."

Yemen: RWB says violence against journalists has been continuing in Yemen. Security forces assaulted Zaki Saqladi, a correspondent of the news website AlmasdarOnline, in the southern province of Ad-Dali, confiscating his car and his camera. Swiss Info correspondent Abdel-Karim Salam was the victim of a violent attack while covering a sit-in outside Sanaa university on 20 February and had to be hospitalised . Tom Finn, a reporter for the Guardian newspaper, was attacked on 17 February by a group of men armed with sticks, who tried to take his camera.

Iran: Sources in Iran have told RWB that the authorities have again been blocking the internet and mobile phone networks since the start of a big protest on 20 February. Internet connections have been slowed down or entirely disconnected in certain neighbourhoods in Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz and Mashad, making it hard or impossible to browse or send emails. SMS services have been cut since midday on 20 February in several regions, preventing use of Twitter.

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