Libyan government attempts to control foreign mediaPosted Mar 10 2011
Libyan authorities invited foreign journalists to the country but prevented them from covering protesters in Tripoli and the accompanying crackdown.
On March 4, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported that official chaperones told the 130 foreign journalists to remain in the Rixos Hotel in Tripoli, which prevented them from covering demonstrations in the city. They were allowed to leave the hotel on a government-led tour and aggressively searched by militiamen loyal to Qaddafi, Borzou Daragahi, a Los Angeles Times reporter, told CPJ.
Reporters Without Borders said that security forces blocked all attempts to leave the hotel and threatened to arrest those who left without permission.
Robert Mahoney, CPJ’s deputy director, said that it is “absurd that Libyan authorities should invite foreign journalists to cover the country and then prevent them from doing so on the pretext of security.”
The New York Times reported that when journalists refused to leave Tripoli for a Qaddafi stronghold in the south, “the government temporarily locked them in their hotel, before arranging a bus trip to a central square that is a hub for pro-Qaddafi rallies.” Some reporters did escape the government escorts.
Amid the unrest on March 4, protesters used journalists as shields. “It is just because of the media we are safe,” one protester told The New York Times. “If you were not here we would see people killed.”
But when government security officers appeared in the Tripoli suburb of Tajura, the presence of journalists did not stop the military as one protester expected. “This is the first time they have used gas,” he said, according to The New York Times. “When you leave they will shoot us with machine guns.” In fact, they did not wait to unleash bursts of gunfire that wounded at least two people, The News York Times reported.
The CPJ also reported that Qaddafi said in a speech on March 2 that Libya does not like foreign correspondents because Libyans are suspicious of them. Reporters Without Borders said that authorities “continue to impose a news blackout on the unfolding events and often blame the unrest on the foreign media.”
The satellite TV signal in Libya that broadcasts Al-Hura, Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, has been jammed since Feb. 23. The stations have been providing coverage of protests and fighting, according to Reporters Without Borders.
Libya’s foreign minister said that journalists who enter the country illegally would be treated as Al-Qaeda agents, according to Reporters Without Borders.