Accurate reporting ‘difficult’ as foreign journalists banned from Libya

In a post on the BBC’s Editor’s blog world news editor Jon Wiliams wrote yesterday about the difficulties news organisations face reporting the uprisings in Libya.

The BBC and other news organisations are relying on those on the ground to tell us what’s happening. Their phone accounts – often accompanied by the sound or gunfire and mortars – are vivid. However, inevitably, it means we cannot independently verify the accounts coming out of Libya. That’s why we don’t present such accounts as "fact" – they are "claims" or "allegations".

Similarly, the flow of video – the so-called "user-generated-content" – has dwindled to a trickle as the authorities have periodically turned off the Internet. That means we have an additional responsibility – to be clear with our audiences not just what little we do know, but perhaps more significantly, what we don’t.

While international journalists have been prevented from entering Libya, local reporters and independent journalists face intimidation as the Committee to Protect Journalists reports.

The director of news website Irasa Taqi al-Din al-Shalawi and Abdel Fattah Bourwaq its editor were arrested on 16 February.

The arrest of writer and blogger Mohamed Ashim shortly after he gave interviews to several satellite TV stations including the Qatar-based Al Jazeera and the BBC’s Arabic service was announced on Twitter by @Libyan4life Jeel Ghathub

REPORT: Mohamed Ashim who posted videos of protests last night was arrested,devices taken,family threatened and hauled to jail #Libya #Feb17

Access to Facebook in Libya’s capital of Tripoli has been blocked and has been sporadic shutting down of electricity and Internet access elsewhere in the country. As a result, internet access has been restricted, but not totally cut off, according to TechCrunch.

Twitter remains open and is an important source of information for journalists worldwide. Blake Hounshell, managing editor of Foreign Policy Magazine has published a list of sources on Twitter but warns of some of the problems that arise because of unconfirmed rumours:

Please bear in mind, however, that much of what goes around in hearsay and unconfirmed rumor – much of it no doubt wrong. Unfortunately, it’s the best information we have to go on right now. I’ll keep adding good feeds to the list as I find them, and feel free to recommend your own.

Protesters in the Libyan capital Tripoli attacked the headquarters of al-Jamahiriya 2 TV and al-Shababia radio on Sunday night, interrupting their broadcasts interrupted until Monday morning.

The attacks followed the broadcast last night of Saif Gaddafi’s speech during which he claimed the foreign media was exaggerating the extent of the violence in Libya.

The focus of our March First Wednesday is being announced later this week but it’s looking very likely that we’ll again be focusing on events in North Africa and the Middle East. As with last week’s special event, we hope to hear from journalists and experts who can give us insight into events in Libya and the problems caused by the lack of media access.