2011-03-16 Four NYT journalists go missing in Libya

The New York Times has received second-hand reports that 4 of its journalists have been "swept up by Libyan government forces" from Ajdabiya. The reports remain unconfirmed, however. The missing journalists are photographers Tyler Hicks and Lynsey Addario, reporter and videographer Stephen Farrell and Anthony Shadid, Beirut bureau chief and Pulitzer Prize winner.

The last contact received from the journalists was on Tuesday morning (ET).

As Jeremy Peters highlights in his Mediadecoder blog entry,

The Times, like many news organizations, has procedures in place to carefully track its journalists’ whereabouts in war zones and areas of conflict. Susan Chira, foreign editor of The Times, said that each night editors discuss plans for the following day with their correspondents, who are expected to check in regularly.

“We expect to hear from them several times a day — and so do their colleagues in the field, who are often our early warning system of any trouble,” Ms. Chira said.

Executive editor Bill Keller said in a statement,

“We have talked with officials of the Libyan government in Tripoli, and they tell us they are attempting to ascertain the whereabouts of our journalists. We are grateful to the Libyan government for their assurance that if our journalists were captured they would be released promptly and unharmed.”

“Their families and their colleagues at The Times are anxiously seeking information about their situation, and praying that they are safe."

Uprisings in the Arab world make for a dangerous climate for everyone and journalists are no exception. Jeremy Peters reminds us in his blog entry about the two Times reporters who were recently detained in Egypt and eventually released. Others, however, including Lara Logan of CBS News, have not been as lucky.

Last week, the BBC reported that four of its journalists were detained by Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s security forces. They were beaten with rifles and subject to mock executions, the network said.

Chris Hawley of AP takes us further back to September 2009, when

Farrell and Sultan Munadi, an Afghan journalist and interpreter who worked regularly with the Times and other news organizations, were taken hostage when they went to cover the aftermath of a NATO airstrike that killed scores of civilians in northern Afghanistan.

Munadi and a British commando died in the raid that rescued Farrell, a Briton. British forces said they had to leave Munadi's body behind because they were coming under heavy fire.

In 2008, New York Times reporter David Rohde was kidnapped while trying to make contact with a Taliban commander in Afghanistan. Rohde and an Afghan colleague escaped in June 2009 after seven months in captivity, most spent in Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan.

On Wednesday, the White House urged the Libyan government to stop harassing and using violence against journalists. Reporters Without Borders is using its own correspondents to help track down the missing journalists.

"It's a very dangerous climate for reporters right now," said Clothilde Le Coz, Washington director for Reporters Without Borders. "It's a reminder that these are real people, and they are putting themselves at real risk to bring information out of these places." (AP)

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