Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Journalists who were unable to leave a Tripoli hotel...

...are free tonight, and they are telling their stories about what took place over the past five days.

The Telegraph spoke to several of them.
...[I]n the end, their ordeal finished not with bullets, but with the tears of an ageing soldier who crumpled and gave up his rifle after grasping the reality that his leader had been defeated.
“There was a sudden realisation from him that the game was up,” said the BBC’s Matthew Price, who was among those freed. “He sat down and wept. He feared for his life.”
Another captive, CNN’s Matthew Chance, said some of his colleagues were “weeping with relief” as they were at last able to walk out of the mink-lined prison where some had spent up to a month.
A SkyNews reporter offers a personal account.
We and about forty other journalists were cossetted in the 5-star Rixos hotel. Our 5-star prison - effectively under ‘hotel-arrest’. All of us at some point tried to leave without a minder, to get the ‘real’ story.
All of us were escorted back with a slapped wrist, like naughty school children.
Some got further afield, some were detained for hours, some were even tortured.
But all were eventually rounded up by militia or soldiers at checkpoints, by men in leather jackets emerging at speed from unmarked minibuses, or by informant taxi drivers on the regime’s payroll.
Back at the hotel, the anti-virus software on our laptops fought a constant battle against ‘hackers’ over the hotel wifi. Every phone call was accompanied at the very least by a loud click; and at its most ridiculous, by the sound of someone else picking up a handset and voices chatting in Arabic in the background.
Interestingly, there was a buzz of activity at the hotel when one of Moammar Qaddafi's sons showed up to refute any hint that he had been captured by forces aligned with the National Transitional Council. But he headed off to whatever hole he's hiding, but he did nothing to set the reporters free.

In the end, these men and women helping us to understand what is happening in Libya were let go; their stories will become an interesting side light to the larger campaign to rid that country of Qaddafi. Nevertheless, it does remind us of the dangers professional journalists face as they do their jobs in the world's hot spots.

Anyone who appreciates the importance of international news, war reporting and the pressures of day-to-day journalism ought to celebrate the freedom these people again enjoy.

No comments: