Rebel fighters outside Tripoli's Corinthia Hotel. (AP/Sergey Ponomarev)
Rebel fighters outside Tripoli's Corinthia Hotel. (AP/Sergey Ponomarev)

Six Libyan journalists still missing

New York, August 25, 2011–The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the release of four Italian journalists kidnapped Wednesday, but remains concerned about the safety of at least six Libyan journalists who have been missing since the start of the uprising in February.

The whereabouts of the six Libyan journalists who have been missing for the past six months are still unknown. Two of them were detained in late February, but are still unaccounted for.

“The events of the past week show how dangerous Libya remains for all journalists,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “We hope that as the hostilities subside, the whereabouts of the Libyan journalists who are still missing become clear.”

Atef al-Atrash, a contributor to local news outlets in Benghazi, disappeared on February 17 after speaking on air on Al-Jazeera. Mohamed al-Sahim, a blogger and critical political writer, Mohamed al-Amin, a cartoonist, and Idris al-Mismar, a writer and the former editor-in-chief of Arajin, a monthly culture magazine, have also been reported missing. Two Tripoli-based journalists–Salma al-Shaab, head of the Libyan Journalists Syndicate, and Suad al-Turabouls, a correspondent for the pro-government Al-Jamahiriya–were detained in late February, but have not been heard from since. All six journalists’ whereabouts are still unknown.

Four Italian journalists kidnapped on Wednesday were released after a raid on the apartment in which they were being held captive, the BBC reported. Their driver, however, was killed during their abduction, news reports said. The journalists had been captured by forces loyal to Col. Muammar Qaddafi, Italy’s Corriere della Sera reported.

Matthew VanDyke, a U.S. journalist who had been missing in Libya since March 13, was freed from Abu Salim prison in Tripoli with several inmates on Wednesday after the prison was seized by rebel forces. His mother told CPJ that he had been held in solitary confinement for most of his imprisonment.

On August 11, Tracey Shelton, a freelance Australian journalist, was brutally attacked by two armed men in her Benghazi hotel room and escaped by jumping to a nearby balcony. She is recovering in another Benghazi hotel with rebels protecting her. 

On Wednesday, two French journalists were shot and wounded in Tripoli while covering the fighting around Muammar Qaddafi’s Bab al-Azizya compound, Agence France-Presse reported. A French cameraman for France 2 network, Bruno Girodon, was hit by a bullet, and Paris Match photographer Alvaro Canovas was shot in the thigh by an assault rifle. They were both taken to a hospital on Wednesday and are recovering from their wounds.