Paper loses contact with Pulitzer Prize-winning bureau chief, reporter and pair of photographers — fears they were captured
Four journalists working for the New York Times are missing in Libya, the paper announced on Wednesday.
The four — Beirut bureau chief Anthony Shadid (pictured), reporter Stephen Farrell and photographers Tyler Hicks and Lynsey Addario — were last in contact with the paper on Tuesday morning (New York time).
There were "second-hand reports that members of its reporting team on the ground in the port city of Ajdabiya had been swept up by Libyan government forces," the Times said.
“We have talked with officials of the Libyan government in Tripoli, and they tell us they are attempting to ascertain the whereabouts of our journalists,” New York Times executive editor Bill Keller said. “We are grateful to the Libyan government for their assurance that if our journalists were captured they would be released promptly and unharmed.”
Shadid — a former Washington Post reporter and Associated Press news chief, won the Pulitzer Prize twice for his foreign reporting on the Iraq War; Hicks and Addario are accomplished photographers, and both have worked extensively in the Middle East.
Farrell "was kidnapped by the Taliban in 2009 and rescued by British commandos," the paper said. In that case, Farrell and an Afghan colleague, Sultan Munadi, were captured. Farrell was freed, but Munadi and a British soldier were killed.
"Four of the best journalists I know, missing in action," Keller tweeted on Wednesday. "Libyans say if they're in govt custody, they will be freed." Keller said he believed the journalists were last seen together.
He added: “Their families and their colleagues at the Times are anxiously seeking information about their situation, and praying that they are safe.”
Shaddid's last bylined story for the Times ("Qaddafi Forces Seize Another Rebel Stronghold") was filed from Ajdabiya, Libya, and published on March 15.
On March 14, Farrell produced a video for the Times entitled, "Libyan Rebels Retreat."
On March 9, Hicks — who has covered Kosovo, Chechnya, Congo, Ethiopia, Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan — told the Times' Lens blog he had witnessed the “thickest fighting in a single day," with the “most firepower coming and going." At that point, he had been in Libya for two weeks, and had "photographed the fighting around Ras Lanuf, a rebel stronghold that [was] under attack by forces loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi." A week before, Addario gave a similar interview to the Times.
Dozens of journalists have been detained while attempting to cover uprisings in the Middle East in recent weeks.
In Libya, three BBC reporters were recently beaten, the Cutline reported, and a Guardian correspondent was captured by government forces outside of Tripoli. (The Guardian's editor said Wednesday that the correspondent, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, had been freed.)
Last month in Egypt, reports of American and European journalists being detained in Cairo flooded in during the revolution there. Several were hurt; some severely.
CBS' Lara Logan "suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault" in Egypt after being detained a second time by authorities. A Fox News crew was badly beaten in Cairo, too.