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Journalists under attack in Libya, Syria, and Yemen

(CPJ/IFEX) - New York, April 12, 2011 - The Committee to Protect Journalists called on Bahraini authorities to launch an immediate and thorough investigation into the death of a blogger while in state custody. Bahraini authorities, meanwhile, announced that they would file criminal charges against three senior editors at the Gulf kingdom's premier independent daily, continuing a months-long pattern of violence, harassment, and intimidation against journalists covering widespread civil unrest.

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Anti-press attacks were reported elsewhere in the region:

The Iranian government-owned Al-Alam, an Arabic language news station, said on April 5 that one of its correspondents in Libya has been in government custody since March 16. Lotfi Ghars, a Canadian national of Tunisian origin, was arrested while entering Libya from Tunisia, according to the same report. Al-Jazeera correspondent Lofti al-Messaoudi, who was released from custody April 3, told Al-Alam that he had heard Ghars' voice at the Tripoli jail while he was being held.

At least 18 journalists and media workers are missing or in government custody in Libya, CPJ research shows.

In Syria, authorities on Monday arrested Fayiz Sara, a prominent writer and regular contributor to Al-Hayat and As-Safir, among several other Arab newspapers, according to local and international news reports. Sara was taken from his home in Damascus and his whereabouts remained unknown, Agence France-Presse said. The arrest followed a meeting between Sara and Samira al-Mussalma, the recently-dismissed editor-in-chief of the government mouthpiece Tishrin, the London-based pan-Arab daily Al-Sharq al-Awsat reported on Sunday. Al-Mussalma was dismissed from her post over remarks to Al-Jazeera in which she called for an official investigation if security forces had violated an executive order against using live ammunition on protesters, according to Al-Jazeera.

Al-Arabiya correspondent Mohamed Zayd Mastou was detained on April 7. CPJ had previously reported that Mastou, a Syrian national who lived in Norway, had gone to Syria to cover the protests that began on March 15, citing a report by Al-Arabiya. Mastou's wife, Karen Fausto, has since informed CPJ that he had applied for political asylum in Norway in September 2009. His application was denied in December 2010, and he returned to Syria on February 15. Correcting initial reports, she said her husband had been detained on April 6.

In Yemen on Saturday, authorities arrested Fahd al-Tawil, a reporter for the independent daily Al-Oula, while he was covering anti-government protests in the capital Sana'a, the Yemeni Journalists' Syndicate said. Al-Tawil was held for two hours, during which he was physically assaulted. His shoulder was dislocated and his face and abdomen were bruised. Also on Saturday, Mohamad al-Shaybani, an Al-Oula distributor, was beaten by thugs while distributing copies of the paper in Sana'a, local journalists told CPJ.

On Saturday, Osama Ghalib, editor of the independent weekly Al-Nass, and reporter Mansur al-Jaradi received anonymous threats, Ghalib told CPJ. He said that an unidentified individual had made separate death threats over the phone to both journalists, also threatening to bomb the paper's offices. Ghalib told CPJ that the threats followed an article in the weekly's previous issue that reported on President Saleh's waning support in his native town of Sanhan, southeast of Sana'a.

To read the full press release, click here
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