BOSTON — GlobalPost freelance contributor James Foley and three other foreign journalists who were taken captive by Libyan authorities earlier this week are expected to be brought to Tripoli today, according to sources within the Turkish government.
A spokesperson from the Turkish embassy in Washington wrote to GlobalPost, saying that they "were told that they [the four foreign journalists] would be brought to [T]ripoli today." The spokesperson also said they expected to hear from the Libyan authorities by way of confirmation on Sunday.
Several sources in Libya have said that the four journalists are expected to be taken to Tripoli, the Libyan capital, and then released. Despite these reports, no one that GlobalPost has been in touch with has seen or spoken to any of the four journalists. The journalists' exact location is not known at this time.
GlobalPost is awaiting further and more precise information from the Libyan government and the Turkish embassy in Tripoli, which has agreed to serve as the intermediary.
Musa Ibrahim, the chief spokesman for the government of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, said the four journalists are being held by the Libyan military and said they would be treated decently, transported to Tripoli and released, according to Western journalists in Tripoli. Ibrahim made the announcement at a press conference Thursday night.
Further confirmation came from Gaddafi's son Saadi who spoke to former U.S. Congressman Curt Weldon, who is in Tripoli. "Saadi has assured me that he will personally act on their behalf immediately," said Weldon, in an email to GlobalPost.
"I have raised these concerns directly with Saadi Gaddafi, Bashir Saleh (chief of staff to Gaddafi) and the prime minister. If we meet with the leader [Gaddafi], I will personally raise my concerns directly as well," Weldon said. "Saadi Gaddafi has promised to personally investigate these cases and to report on his success — he has done similar work on behalf of other journalists."
The confirmation that the journalists are being held by the Libyan military is an important step in a process to get them released, according to Peter Bouckaert, director of emergencies for Human Rights Watch.
"Things normally look up from here," said Bouckaert, who has worked on similar cases, including the New York Times journalists who were captured and eventually released by Libyan authorities last month.
“We are aware of reports coming out of Libya that our correspondent James Foley and the other journalists taken prisoner on Tuesday are now in the hands of the Libyan government and are safe. We are not able to independently confirm these reports, but we are encouraged that a positive end to this situation may be closer at hand,” said GlobalPost President and CEO Philip S. Balboni.
“I want to express my deep appreciation to the many people and organizations that continue to work with us to ensure their safe release, including the many journalists on the ground in Tripoli, Human Rights Watch, the Committee to Protect Journalists, former U.S. Congressman Curt Weldon, the U.S. State Department, the Libyan officials who have expressed their commitment to making certain these journalist get returned quickly and safely. I am particularly indebted to the staff of the New York Times whose compassion and advice over the past 24 hours was invaluable.”
Bouckaert, who is based in Geneva, informed GlobalPost of the detentions early Thursday morning. He said the journalists had been taken on Tuesday afternoon while they were reporting on the outskirts of Brega.
GlobalPost and other news organizations are continuing to work to gather additional information about the journalists' condition and whereabouts and to secure their timely release.
The initial information of the capture of the journalists came in an email to Bouckaert from New York Times reporter C.J. Chivers containing eyewitness accounts at the scene. Those witnesses said that the van Foley was travelling in with the other journalists had been stopped by an indirect fire strike and that Gaddafi forces took the journalists prisoner and released the driver. It is believed that, along with Foley, Clare Morgana Gillis, an American freelance journalist; Manu Brabo, a Spanish photographer; and Anton Hammerl, a South African photographer; were also detained.
GlobalPost has been in contact with James Foley’s family and is working with all of the organizations involved, including the U.S. State Department, Human Rights Watch, and the Committee to Protect Journalists, to gather information and secure the journalists’ release. GlobalPost CEO and President Philip S. Balboni released this statement:
“Requests have been made to the Libyan foreign media office for the release of James Foley and the other journalists detained by government forces. We appeal to the Libyan authorities for the immediate and safe release of these journalists. Our thoughts are with Jim’s family and with the families of the other journalists.”