Day 43: Captured Journalists Languish in Libya

Freelance photographer Anton Hammerl remains unaccounted for in Libya, more than 40 days after Libyan authorities say they took him into custody. The lack of information has escalated concern among his family and friends about his health and safety.

“All we do is concern ourselves with what we can do in order to get him back. Our lives are no longer normal but instead totally consumed with anguish over Anton’s safety,” his wife, Penny Sukhraj, told The Guardian in London. “I don’t understand why he is being treated differently from the others…Why won’t they give us or consular officials access to him?”

Three other journalists–freelance photographer Manu Brabo, and freelance writers Clare Gillis and James Foley–also remain in detention, but all three contacted their families by telephone from Tripoli in late April. They reported that they were in good health.

The journalists went missing April 5, and Libyan officials announced soon afterwards that they had detained all four of them. The Libyan government accused them of entering the country illegally, but has not indicated when they might be released.

Families and friends of the four journalists have set up several Facebook pages to raise awareness about their plight, share information, and bring international pressure to bear on Libyan officials to release them. An online petition was also started, drawing nearly 35,000 signatures to date.

“As freelance correspondents, Jim, Clare, Manu, and Anton do not have the benefit of a large and powerful news corporation to galvanize diplomatic pressure to secure their timely and safe release,” the petition says. “They were doing their job to help inform others, and now deserve to return home to their families.”

Other journalists–including several working for The New York Times–were detained by Libyan government troops and released within days partly because of the influence of the media organizations behind them.

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