Growing number of attacks on journalists in Libya highlights dangers

The detention and beating of three BBC Arabic journalists in Tripoli marked the beginning of a dangerous week for journalists in Libya that culminated with the death of an Al Jazeera cameraman Ali Hassaon Al Jaber.

Feras Killani, a Palestinian with a Syrian passport, Goktay Koraltan, who is Turkish, and Chris Cobb-Smith, who is British, were subject to mock executions.

The Independent’s Mary Dejevsky discusses the implications of this incident for Western broadcasters using locally recruited journalists and the danger that they may be seen as spies or traitors:

What seems to be different here is that Killani, and to a lesser extent perhaps Koraltan, too, was very quickly identified by his tormentors as "one of them" – someone who in their view should, by virtue of his ethnicity, culture or religion, be on their side. Reporters who are clearly "foreign" can be forgiven for making "mistakes". "Locals" who take the other side are seen as traitors. Recognised as an Arab, for all his BBC credentials, Killani was in particular danger. A combination of BBC and Foreign Office intervention secured the team’s release, and an apology, but the result for an individual reporter might have been different.

The Guardian newspaper reported it was continuing "intensive efforts" to persuade the Libyan government to release Ghaith Abdul-Ahadone, an Iraqi national, who went missing earlier this month and was last heard from on the outskirts of the coastal city of Zawiya, where there has been heavy fighting.

These incidents are among forty documented by the Committee to Protect Journalists in Libya since 16 February. At least six local journalists are unaccounted for and, in addition there have been five assaults, 25 detentions and two attacks on news facilities.

Al Jazeera cameraman Ali Hassaon Al Jaber was killed when his car came under fire while returning to the rebel-held town of Benghazi after filing a report from an opposition protest.

Wadah Khanfar, the director-general of Al Jazeera, said the killing came after "an unprecedented campaign" against the network by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Al Jazeera condemns the cowardly crime, which comes as part of the Libyan regime’s malicious campaign targeting Al Jazeera and its staff.

Al Jazeera reiterates the assault cannot dent its resolve to continue its mission, professionally enlightening the public of the unfolding events in Libya and elsewhere.

Al Jazeera stresses it will relentlessly prosecute and bring to justice all perpetrators and their accomplices.