New York, April 6, 2011--More than 20 foreign journalists were told that they would have to leave Libya within 24 hours, National Public Radio said today. NPR reported that Libyan authorities asked journalists from different international news outlets to leave the country. The media outlets include Britain's Channel 4, CNN, Fox News, The Independent, Italian TV, ITV, Le Figaro, Los Angeles Times, The Times of London, NBC News, The New York Times, RAI, RTL, and The Sunday Times of London. The government has also decided to not issue new visas for journalists who wish to cover the unfolding conflict, NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reported from Tripoli.
On Tuesday, Bahrain deported two journalists working for an independent daily, continuing a weeks-long campaign of obstruction and intimidation against media. Meanwhile, attacks against journalists were also reported in Egypt, Yemen, and Lebanon.
"The journalists in Tripoli are already operating under severely restricted conditions, and now the government is trying to remove them entirely at a time when the presence of the international press is crucial," said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. "We have documented upward of 450 violations against the media in the region since January alone, including the killing of seven journalists; the numbers speak for themselves."
On Tuesday, authorities in Bahrain deported Al-Wasat's managing editor, Ali al-Sharifi, and columnist Rahim al-Kaabi, both Iraqi nationals, according to news reports and CPJ interviews. Maryam al-Shrooqi, a columnist at the daily, told CPJ that to her knowledge the government gave no reason for its decision. She added that al-Sharifi was only appointed managing editor on Monday, after his predecessor and two other senior employees stepped down in an effort to save the paper. Obeidli al-Obeidli, who was appointed editor of Al-Wasat by its board this week, declined to comment on the deportations.
In Egypt on Thursday, men in plainclothes attacked Ali Saeed, an editor at a magazine published by the Egyptian Radio and Television Union called Radio and TV. Saeed said that four men punched and kicked him as he was leaving Khorshid's home in Cairo. He told CPJ that in March he published an interview with Etemad Khorshid, the widow of former head of Egypt's General Intelligence Directorate Salah Nasr. In the interview, Khorshid revealed crimes allegedly committed by former intelligence officers and Safwat al-Sharif, the speaker of the upper chamber of parliament and the chairman of the former ruling National Democratic Party. The four men said, "Consider this a message to the two of you," meaning Saeed and Khorshid, Saeed told CPJ.
In Yemen, the independent weekly Al-Nidaa said that a shipment of its recent issue for Taiz, the country's third-largest city, was seized at a security checkpoint south of the capital, Sana'a, on Monday. Al-Nidaa called on the Interior Ministry to return all the confiscated copies. Local media also reported that police seized 3,000 copies of another independent weekly, Al-Ahali, en route to the southern governorates of Ibb, Hadramaut and al-Mahra. The Yemeni Journalists' Syndicate condemned the confiscations.
In Lebanon on Sunday, demonstrators in the southern city of Sidon attacked journalists who were covering a protest against the sectarian political system in Lebanon, a local reporter told CPJ. Mohamed al-Zaatari, a correspondent for the English-language Daily Star, told CPJ that protesters beat him and destroyed the camera of Amin Shaoumar, a photographer for the satellite news channel Al-Manar. Al-Zaatari told CPJ that he and his colleagues were attacked because the assailants did not want them to witness infighting among the demonstrators.
On Tuesday, Syrian authorities released George Baghdadi, a correspondent for the Spanish news agency Efe, according to news reports. Baghdadi, a Syrian national, was detained on Friday while covering protests in the northern coastal city of Latakia. CPJ was unable to determine whether authorities in Syria continue to hold a number of journalists who had been detained in recent days, including Amer Matar, Doha Hassan, and Mohammad Dibo.