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Journalists detained and broadcasts jammed in Libya

Residents cheer as foreign journalists arrive in Zawiya, 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Tripoli on Sunday. (AP/Ben Curtis) New York, March 1, 2011--Security forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi continue to detain journalists and jam broadcast frequencies, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

"It is beyond irony that the authorities in Tripoli are inviting in foreign reporters for guided tours of the capital while they round up Libyan journalists who dare talk to foreign broadcasters," said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. "We are deeply concerned for the welfare of six Libyan journalists who have either been detained or gone missing since the unrest began. We hold the Tripoli administration responsible for their safety."

Security forces have arrested the head of Libyan Journalists Syndicate, Salma al-Shaab, and Suad al-Turabouls, a correspondent for the pro-government Al-Jamahiriya newspaper, on Monday in Tripoli, according to news reports. However, a local journalist told CPJ that al-Shaab dissapeared about 10 days ago after she spoke to Al-Jazeera. The arrests were thought to be related to the journalists' work with Al-Jazeera, according to Quryna, a privately owned Libyan newspaper. Quryna said security forces are conducting a widespread campaign of arrests against journalists that are in contact with non-Libyan media.

Jalal al-Kawafi, a detained Libyan blogger and political writer, was freed on Saturday after protesters expelled pro-Qaddafi forces from the city. Al-Kawafi had been arrested shortly before February 17, a local journalist from Benghazi, Naim Ibrahim al-Ushayba, told CPJ. The whearabouts of at least four journalists from Benghazi are still unknown. They are: Atef al-Atrash, Idris al-Mismar, Mohamed al-Sahim, and Mohamed al-Amin. 

Jamming of Al-Jazeera and Al-Hurra continues. Al-Jazeera's signal has been intermittently jammed since February 2, according to the network, although it intensified after anti-government protests began in the country. Al-Hurra reported it is being jammed on the Nilesat satellite.

Ushayba added that radio station Voice of Free Libya, formerly state-controlled but now controlled by protesters, received call-in threats of potential suicide bombings. Hanan Jallal, a local activist in Benghazi who is a member of a newly organized protesters' media office in Benghazi, told CPJ that Voice of Free Libya's signal is experiencing interference because of possible government jamming.

In Misurata, 125 miles (200 kilometers) east of Tripoli, on Monday, a helicopter tried to destroy the antenna of a local radio station that protesters had taken over, international media reported.  Anti-Qaddafi protesters took control of the city on Thursday, according to news reports. Misurata is the third largest city in Libya, after Tripoli and Benghazi.

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