Conflict & Justice

Jailed reporter calls family from Libya



Journalist James Foley reporting for GlobalPost from Benghazi, Libya in mid-March. Foley, along with three other foreign journalists, was detained by forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on April 5.


BOSTON — South African photographer Anton Hammerl, who went missing at the same time as GlobalPost journalist James Foley and two others, is well and will be allowed to speak to his family soon, according to information from Libyan authorities.

The South African government has received information from the Libyan authorities confirming that Hammerl is in good condition. There were growing fears about the safety of Hammerl, who had not been seen since April 5.

On Thursday, American journalist Clare Morgana Gillis was allowed to call her parents from Tripoli. Gillis was captured alongside Foley on April 5, and there had been no contact with either journalist in more than two weeks.

Gillis told her parents, Jane and Robert, that she had been with Foley and a third journalist, Manu Brabo, a Spanish photographer, in a detention center in Tripoli until Tuesday, when she was moved to a women's facility. She said that Anton Hammerl, a photographer of South African and Austrian citizenship, had not been with them when they were detained. Hammerl has also been missing in Libya since April 5.

Gillis' parents said that their daughter sounded upbeat but they remained concerned that she had yet to be released.

At a press conference on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demanded the release of all U.S. citizens who have been "unjustly" detained inside Libya.

Eyewitnesses first saw Foley and Gillis, a contributor to The Atlantic and USA Today, being captured by forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi outside the eastern city of Brega, a key oil town in the eastern part of the country that has seen some of the heaviest fighting. But the Libyan government had previously not officially confirmed it was holding the two reporters and had not allowed them visitors or let them make phone calls.

For more than two weeks Libyan officials have given conflicting reports about the whereabouts and well-being of the reporters.

Before Gillis called home, the only evidence of their location came from another journalist who reported from Tripoli that he had spotted them inside a detention center in the capital on April 7. Whether that detention center was being run by the government, the military or the country's intelligence services was unclear. That source said at the time that both Foley and Gillis appeared to be in good condition.

Foley, 37, was captured alongside Gillis, 34, and Manuel Varela, 30, who works under the name Manu Brabo, who was on assignment for the European Press Agency. Foley had been reporting on the rebel army and their movements for GlobalPost since the middle of March.

The familes of Foley and Gillis have stepped up media campaigns that they hope will help speed the release of the journalists. Last Sunday, Foley's friends and family held a vigil where they appealed directly to the Libyan government for its help.

“This evening marks the 13th night since our son, James, has been a prisoner of the Libyan government,” said his father, John Foley, during a press conference at the Foley home in New Hampshire on Sunday.

“We love our son very much and we want and need him to be back safely here in New Hampshire," said John Foley. "We are so grateful to all those in this country and around the world who have worked for James’ freedom and that of his fellow journalists. We are praying for you, son, and for your swift return home.”

A candlelight vigil was held after the press conference at Foley's family church in Rochester, N.H. Similar vigils were held elsewhere in the country, including in Chicago, close to where Foley studied journalism at Northwestern University.

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Human Rights Watch has urged the Libyan government to release or at least provide information about all of the 15 journalists it believes are being detained inside the country.

"Libyan and foreign journalists are facing unlawful restrictions from the government, including incommunicado detention in Tripoli," said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at Human Rights Watch. "If the government has nothing to hide, then it should let the media do its work."

Human Rights Watch said that nine foreign journalists and six Libyan journalists are now detained or missing in Libya.

GlobalPost continues to work all the necessary and appropriate channels to secure the safe release of Foley and Gillis. GlobalPost remains in close touch with The Atlantic, USA Today, the State Department, the Turkish government and other organizations that may influence a positive outcome.

“We remain optimistic, but continue to be concerned about James Foley and Clare Gillis as they have now been held in captivity for nearly two weeks,” said GlobalPost President and CEO Philip S. Balboni.

Turkish diplomats in Tripoli said they were discussing the detentions with Libya’s government and hoped to secure the release of the journalists soon.

Turkey is one of the few countries still operating an embassy in Tripoli and has helped free a number of other journalists detained there, including four New York Times reporters captured last month.

A Turkish official said that he hoped to have "good news" soon.

“We deeply appreciate the very important behind-the-scenes work being carried out by the Turkish Foreign Ministry and its staff who are negotiating with the Libyan authorities to secure the release of our journalists,” Balboni said.

(Watch videos and read stories from James Foley in Libya and Afghanistan.)