CPJ: More than 50 attacks reported on the press in Libya

The Committee to Protect Journalists said today that it had recorded more than 50 attacks on the press since political unrest erupted in Libya last month.

The press freedom charity said it had recorded two fatalities, a gunshot injury, 36 detentions, five assaults and two attacks on news facilities.

In addition, both Al-Jazeera and Al-Hurra networks had suffered jams to their transmission and there had been at least three instances of obstruction – the CPJ said.

The Libyan government now holds at least seven journalists in custody, the CPJ said. Additionally, at least six local journalists are missing amid speculation they have also been taken into custody by the security forces.

The CPJ also warned about arrests, attacks, and harassment in Syria and Bahrain in recent days. It said escalation of the situation in Yemen had led around 20 plainclothes gunmen to raid Al-Jazeera’s Sana’a bureau yesterday.

The raid follows the expulsion of Al-Jazeera correspondents Ahmad Zeidan and Abdel Haq Sadah on Saturday. The previous week, Yemen expelled six other international journalists in an effort to restrict coverage of the revolt and the government’s violent response, the CPJ said.

The report on the deepening crisis across the Middle East and North Africa followed Amnesty International’s call yesterday for Colonel Gaddafi to release four Al Jazeera journalists held for more than two weeks after being detained trying to leave Libya.

The international human rights charity said the two correspondents and two cameramen who were arrested in Zantan, near the Tunisian border, could be at risk of torture.

The missing correspondents are Ahmad Val Wald-Eddin from Mauritania and a Tunisian, Lutfi Al-Massoudi – both 34 years old.

Norwegian cameraman Ammar Al-Hamdan, 34, has also been detained along with Ammar Al-Tallou from Britain.

It is thought that Lutfi Al-Massoudi may be held in Tripoli, after a CNN correspondent posted on Twitter that one of his colleagues had been detained with a Tunisian correspondent in the capital.

An Al Jazeera cameraman, Hassan Al Jaber, was killed in an ambush in Libya last week.

Amnesty International said the Libyan authorities have targeted journalists working for foreign news organisations since unrest started in the country.

Experienced foreign correspondent Dave Clark, 38, is the latest British journalist to have gone missing. He has not made contact with his editors at the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency since Friday evening, the agency said this week.

Last night, the National Union of Journalists and the French SNJ-CGT journalists’ union called on the British and French governments to work urgently with national and international authorities to ensure the safety and release of Clark and his two colleagues – Roberto Schmidt and Getty Images photographer Joe Raedle.

‘We understand that on Saturday Dave and his colleagues encountered a convoy of military jeeps and transport vehicles a few dozen kilometres from Ajdabiya, and were forcibly arrested,’said NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear.

‘Dave, who is an experienced foreign correspondent, explained in Arabic that they were journalists. But they were ordered to kneel on the side of the road with their hands on their heads, and then put into a military vehicle and driven away.

‘We are naturally concerned for the safety of the three journalists, and expect the British and French governments to do everything possible to secure their immediate release.

‘Dave Clark is a widely respected and experienced foreign correspondent, who joined AFP from the Newcastle Evening Chronicle.”

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