Libyan journalists kidnapped after covering elections

New York, July 10, 2012–Libyan authorities must establish the whereabouts of two journalists kidnapped on Saturday and do all in their power to secure their safe release, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The journalists were abducted on their way to the city of Misurata after covering the country’s first elections in decades, according to news reports.

Unidentified men kidnapped Abdelqadir Fassouk, a reporter and cameraman for the private Tobacts TV station, and Yusuf Badi, a cameraman for the same station, near the city of Bani Walid, according to Hassan al-Gallay, deputy head of public relations at Tobacts TV, and news reports. The journalists had covered the elections in the city of Mizdah and were headed back to the TV station, based in Misurata, the reports said. Tobacts TV lost contact with the journalists at 5 p.m. on Saturday and reported their disappearance to the Ministry of Interior five hours later, al-Gallay said.

Tobacts TV has covered events in Misurata and greater Libya since the uprising began, CPJ research shows. Fassouk and Badi, who were on the frontlines covering the Libyan revolution, were dispatched this weekend to cover the parliamentary vote, al-Gallay said.

The identity of the captors was not clear. Bani Walid was a stronghold of former leader Muammar Qaddafi, while Misurata was one of the first cities to protest against his rule and was captured by the rebels soon after the uprising began in February 2011. Local militias in the country often operate outside the law and detain people at whim, putting them at odds with the government, CPJ research shows.

“We are concerned for the safety of Abdelqadir Fassouk and Yusuf Badi and call on their captives to release them immediately as a humanitarian gesture,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “Journalists are civilians and should not be targeted for abduction just for doing their jobs.”

Al-Gallay told CPJ he had received conflicting information from sources in Bani Walid about the kidnappers’ demands. He said the captors had demanded the release of pro-Qaddafi prisoners in Misurata, but could also be asking for the release of all pro-Qaddafi prisoners in the country in return for the journalists’ release.

On Monday, Al Wadi TV, a station based in Bani Walid, aired an interview with Fassouk and Badi, who seemed to be in good health. The captors, who were off camera, said the journalists had entered Beni Walid illegally and had been filming without permission in a military area. Fassouk requires regular physical therapy for injuries to his right shoulder, al-Gallay told CPJ.

In February, CPJ documented the capture of two British journalists by a militia in Tripoli.

  • For more data and analysis on Libya, visit CPJ’s Libya page here.