The International Federation of Journalists says that intemperate rhetoric against journalists from Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi is partly responsible for the shocking assault and torture of a BBC news team which was detained on Monday by Libyan security forces as they attempted to reach the battle-torn city of Zawiya.
The BBC said that the three members of the team were beaten with fists, knees and rifles, then hooded and subjected to mock executions during their 21-hour ordeal in the hands of Libya's army and secret police.
The detention took place the day after Gaddafi accused the international media of misleading people about events in Libya. Earlier his son Saif Gaddafi criticised the foreign media for exaggerating the extent of the violence.
“The regime, which controls the local media, have made no secret of their contempt for foreign journalists,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “Their intemperate attacks on the rights of independent journalism are also to blame for the indiscipline and abuse carried out in this case.”
The IFJ says that although the detained men were released and flown out of Libya and a senior Libyan government official later apologized for their treatment, the regime must stop sending signals from the top that may encourage intimidation of journalists by police and security officials.
“When the bullets start to fly media staff reporting the events are at risk because they need to get close to the story,” said White. “But their job is made immeasurably more dangerous when a signal is sent to soldiers on the ground that the government is opposed to journalists and their work.”
The IFJ, working in partnership with the International News Safety Institute and local journalists’ unions across the region, is calling for all governments in countries caught up in the current regional turmoil to avoid actions which will encourage the targeting of journalists.
“This incident is only the latest in a series of actions against journalists across the Arab world who are trying to report on public protests and demands for political reform,” said White. “Political leaders have a responsibility to protect journalists, not fuel hostility against them.”
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