Monday 14 March 2011

IFJ warning as first journalist is killed in Libya

The International Federation of Journalists has warned that journalists working in Libya are facing acute dangers after an Al Jazeera cameraman was killed in what appears to have been an ambush near Benghazi.

The death was reported as a Brazilian reporter who was freed from detention in Libya urged Moammar Gaddafi's government to release a colleague from the Guardian who is still held. Andrei Netto, a correspondent for Brazil's Estado de S. Paulo, fears for the fate of his colleague Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, an Iraqi national working for the Guardian who was detained with him.

The IFJ and its Iraqi affiliate are calling for the Gaddafi government to release the journalist who has been missing since March 6.

The first media death reported in Libya is that of Ali Hassan Al Jaber who was shot while returning to Benghazi from a nearby town after filing a report for Aljazeera from an opposition protest. Unknown fighters opened fire on a car he and his colleagues were travelling in.

“The crisis in Libya is intensifying and the risks to journalists are increasing by the hour,” said Aidan White, IFJ general secretary. “As government forces turn their fire on Benghazi we can expect that journalists reporting from the city will face extraordinary threats. It’s important that media act to protect their staff.”

The IFJ says that media must heed warnings being issued by the International News Safety Institute which warned that journalists need to be increasingly aware of the risks to them particularly as there is antipathy towards foreign news crews.

“We see hostility to journalists from all sides in this volatile situation,” said White. “All reporters are at risk, but foreign media staff face particular problems.”

Last week the IFJ condemned government attacks on media which may be contributing to a hostile atmosphere. “We mourn the loss of our colleague in Benghazi and we do not want more casualties,” said White. “All sides must respect the rights of unarmed media staff that is why we urge the government to release the detained Guardian journalist and to allow all media to report freely.”

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