Times reporters freed in Libya; 13 still missing, detained

New York, March 21, 2011 – CPJ welcomes the release of four New York Times journalists in Libya but remains deeply concerned about 13 other journalists who are either missing or reported in Libyan government custody.

“Four journalists from Al-Jazeera, two from Agence France-Presse, and one from Getty Images are either being detained by Libyan authorities or are missing,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Six Libyan journalists are also missing and unaccounted for. We call on Libyan authorities to release those journalists in their custody and to assist in efforts to locate those who are missing.”

The four New York Times journalists–Anthony Shadid, Stephen Farrell, Lynsey Addario and Tyler Hicks–were released to Turkish diplomats and crossed safely into Tunisia today, according to the Times.

Al-Jazeera correspondents Ahmed Vall Ould Addin and Lotfi al-Messaoudi, and cameramen Kamel Atalua and Ammar al-Hamdan remained in custody today after being detained in western Libya. Al-Jazeera disclosed the detentions on Sunday, saying the journalists had been in custody for several days.

AFP journalists Dave Clark and Roberto Schmidt and Getty Images photographer Joe Raedle are unaccounted for. AFP said the journalists were last heard from via email on Friday night, as they were about to drive out of the eastern city of Tobruk.

At least six local journalists who spoke critically of government policies are also missing, although there is wide speculation that they are in the custody of forces loyal to leader Muammar Qaddafi. The missing journalists are Atef al-Atrash, a contributor to local news outlets; Mohamed al-Sahim, a blogger and critical political writer; Mohamed al-Amin, a cartoonist; Idris al-Mismar, a writer and former editor-in-chief of Arajin, a monthly culture magazine; Salma al-Shaab, head of the Libyan Journalists Syndicate; and Suad al-Turabouls, a correspondent for the pro-government Al-Jamahiriya. Three of the six went missing shortly after speaking to Al-Jazeera on the air.

Since Libya’s revolt began in February, CPJ has documented more than 50 attacks on the press, including two fatalities, more than 33 detentions, five assaults, two attacks on news facilities, numerous instances of equipment confiscation, three cases of obstruction, the jamming of at least two satellite news transmissions, and the interruption of Internet service. (Click here for CPJ’s running account of all attacks on the press in Libya.)