People gather near the courthouse in Benghazi on August 22. (Reuters)
People gather near the courthouse in Benghazi on August 22. (Reuters)

Australian journalist attacked by assailants in Benghazi

New York, August 22, 2011–Tracey Shelton, a freelance Australian journalist, was brutally attacked in her hotel room in Benghazi, Libya, on August 11, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Two armed men wearing military fatigues broke into Shelton’s room at the Africa Hotel, tied her up, beat her, and attempted to kidnap her. The journalist escaped by jumping to a neighboring balcony.

Shelton told CPJ that two men dressed in army uniforms broke in through her balcony at 3 a.m. with guns and knives, tied her up, and beat her. Although authorities have not confirmed the motive of the attack, the journalist said that the men had planned to kidnap her. Shelton managed to free her hands and legs, escaped through the window, and ran to a neighboring hotel, whose staff called the police. By the time the police got to her hotel room, the assailants had stolen everything valuable, including her equipment, laptop, and wallet.

The rebel government, the interim National Transitional Council in Benghazi, put Shelton in a hotel under continuous security surveillance and immediately launched an investigation into the attack. Though one person from the hotel staff has already been arrested, the case is still being investigated, Shelton told CPJ. Shelton also said that local rebels told her they believe that the attackers were Qaddafi infiltrators trying to damage the rebels’ reputation among journalists, but the authorities have not yet confirmed this.

“CPJ urges the National Transitional Council to conduct its investigation in a timely and thorough manner,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “It is important that the authorities demonstrate that attacks on journalists will not go unpunished.”

Shelton has been in Libya for the past three months in Misrata and Benghazi. She has been working as a freelancer for the Sydney Morning Herald and the Abu Dhabi-based The National