Libya: Guardian man 'held', Times and ITN enter Zawiyah

Award-winning Guardian journalist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad is reported to be in Libyan custody after going missing for four days.

The Guardian last night reported that it was urgently trying to make contact with the former British Press Awards winner. But it is now reporting that Libyan Government officials have said that he is in custody along with Brazilian journalist Andrei Netto.

The pair were detained, the paper said, near the coastal town of Sabratha – near Zawiyah which Libyan officials have stopped journalists from entering while it has been under heavy attack from pro-Gaddafi forces.

Three BBC journalists were this week arrested, held for 21 hours, beaten and subject to mock executions after being stopped at an army checkpoint outside Zawiyah.

Meanwhile journalists from The Times and ITN yesterday managed to enter Zawiyah to report on a scene of carnage left by pro-Gaddafi forces.

Times defence editor Deborah Haynes reported widespread destruction, freshly dug graves and pro-Gaddafi clean-up crews at work. She was denied access to the hospital.

A team from ITN led by ITV international editor Bill Neely also managed to enter the town yesterday and managed to film evidence that it had come under heavy artillery bombardment.

Martin Fletcher writing in The Times today notes that around 200 foreign journalists now based in the Libyan capital Tripoli live under a sort of ‘house arrest’and that it is ‘almost impossible to talk to ordinary Libyans without seriously endangering them”.

He writes: ‘The regime wants the foreign media here purely so that it can pass on to the world its preposterous message: that the vast majority of Libyans adore Colonel Gaddafi, most of the country is contented and at peace, and the small uprising has been fomented by al-Qaeda terrorists working beside Western countries who covet Libya’s oil.

‘To that end we are given ‘briefings’ that are almost comical in their mendacity, and taken on ludicrous official trips.”

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