Reporters Without Borders is deeply concerned about two Agence France-Presse journalists and a US photographer who, according to information newly obtained by AFP, were arrested by pro-Gaddafi forces near Ajdabiya on 19 March. AFP had not heard from its two reporters since the evening of 18 March.
The two AFP journalists are Dave Clark, 38, who is British, and Roberto Schmidt, 45, who has German and Colombian dual nationality. The US photographer who was travelling with them is Joe Raedle, 45, of Getty Images.
In a press release today, AFP said a Libyan driver, Mohamed Hamed, told the news agency that on Saturday morning he took the three journalists from Tobruk on the road to Ajdabiya, where Gaddafi loyalists have been fighting eastern rebels. “ A few dozen kilometres from Ajdabiya, they encountered a convoy of military jeeps and transport vehicles. They turned around, but were intercepted by the soldiers who caught up with them and forcibly arrested them, the driver said.”
The press release added: “Four soldiers ordered the journalists out of their vehicle at gunpoint. Clark, an experienced foreign correspondent, identified themselves in Arabic as journalists, the driver said. They were then ordered to kneel on the side of the road with their hands on their heads. Other civilians and ambulances arrived on the scene and were controlled by soldiers who arrived in large number, Hamed said. The soldiers then set fire to several vehicles, including that used by the journalists, who were put into a military vehicle and driven away.”
The confirmation of their arrest brings the number of journalists currently detained in Libya to seven. Al-Jazeera reported on 19 March that four of its journalists were being held by pro-Gaddafi forces. The four – Mauritanian reporter Ahmed Vall Ould el-Dine, Tunisian reporter Lotfi Messaoudi, Norwegian photographer Ammar Al-Hamdane and British photographer Kamel Ataloua – were arrested near the western town of Zawiya.
Reporters Without Borders is also without any news of six Libyan journalists.
The press freedom organization is nonetheless reassured to learned that French freelance photographer Stéphane Lehr has reestablished contact with Polaris Images, the photo agency he is currently working for. Polaris Images director Jean-Pierre Pappis said he got an email from Lehr last night, after more than 24 hours without hearing from him