Tripoli smoke

Still from BBC video showing Tripoli during fighting in parts of the city (Monday 22 August)

Credit: BBC

At least six local journalists remain missing in Libya, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, despite recent releases of foreign reporters in the country.

In a report the press freedom body said concerns remain about the whereabouts of the Libyan journalists who have been missing since the start of the uprising in February.

It was reported yesterday that US journalist Matthew VanDyke, who had been missing in Libya for more than five months, had been released from Abu Salim prison in Tripoli by rebels.

In an interview on BBC
World Have Your Say, he said he spent the entire time in solitary confinement, with around half the time in one prison and half in another.

"They told me nothing about what I was accused of, whether I would ever be released, they just locked me in a room and gave me food, kept me alive, and no real interaction with anybody for about six months," he said.

"I thought they would execute me. I didn't know if a lynch mob would come and grab me. I never knew.

His release followed news of a group of four Italian journalists who were kidnapped while driving through a checkpoint near Zawiya, around 50 miles outside of Tripoli.

They were later released, according to Italy's foreign ministry, reportedly during a raid on the building in which they were being held.

On Wednesday a group of 35 journalists, largely from UK and US-based news outlets, were freed from the Rixos Hotel in the city after five days of being prevented from leaving, as fighting continued in the area.

In light of these recent events the CPJ sought to highlight the fact that the whereabouts of at least six Libyan journalists remain unknown.

"The events of the past week show how dangerous Libya remains for all journalists," CPJ deputy director Robert Mahoney added.

"We hope that as the hostilities subside, the whereabouts of the Libyan journalists who are still missing become clear."

According to the CPJ the six journalists who remain missing are: Atef al-Atrash, a contributor to local news outlets in Benghazi; Mohamed al-Sahim, a blogger and critical political writer; Mohamed al-Amin, a cartoonist; Idris al-Mismar, a writer and the former editor-in-chief of Arajin; Salma al-Shaab, head of the Libyan Journalists Syndicate and Suad al-Turabouls, a correspondent for the pro-government Al-Jamahiriya.

The press freedom body claims Al-Shaab and al-Turabouls were detained in February, but remain unaccounted for.

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