Wednesday 16 March 2011

Guardian reporter Ghaith Abdul-Ahad freed in Libya but four NY Times journalists are missing

The Guardian reporter, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, (left) who was detained by the Libyan authorities two weeks ago, has been freed and left the country, the paper has reported.

Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger said on Twitter: "Guardian's Ghaith Abdul-Ahad freed and safely out of Libya. Heartfelt thanks to all who helped free him."

But the New York Times is reporting that four of its journalists reporting on the conflict in Libya are missing. They are Anthony Shadid, the Beirut bureau chief; Stephen Farrell, the reporter who was kidnapped by the Taliban in 2009 and rescued by British commandos; and two photographers, Tyler Hicks and Lynsey Addario, who have worked extensively in the Middle East and Africa.

Editors at the paper said they were last in contact with the journalists on Tuesday morning New York time. The paper said it had received second-hand reports that members of its reporting team on the ground in the port city of Ajdabiya had been swept up by Libyan government forces.

The paper’s executive editor, Bill Keller, said :“We have talked with officials of the Libyan government in Tripoli, and they tell us they are attempting to ascertain the whereabouts of our journalists,” Keller said. “We are grateful to the Libyan government for their assurance that if our journalists were captured they would be released promptly and unharmed.

“Their families and their colleagues at The Times are anxiously seeking information about their situation, and praying that they are safe.”

  • The Committe to Protect Journalists reports there have been more than 300 attacks on journalists covering political unrest across the Middle East and North Africa. Four journalists have been killed in the region, dozens of reporters detained and assaulted, and widespread censorship imposed.
  • “The disappearance of the four New York Times journalists has come amid a climate of violence and hatred towards the media that is being sustained and encouraged by the Gaddafi regime,” Reporters Without Borders said. “In a recent public address, Col. Gaddafi described foreign TV stations as ‘stray dogs.’ His foreign minister said journalists who entered Libya ‘illegally’ would be regarded as Al-Qaeda supporters.”

    RWB added: “The recent arrests of journalists and the violence to which some of them have been subjected suggests that the regime is carrying out its threats. It is doing everything possible to prevent the world from seeing its counter-offensive against the rebels.”

    BBC News reports NYT journalists freed to Turkish Embassy in Tripoli.

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