Iran frees Parvaz, Libya frees four other journalists
Reporters Without Borders is relieved by the release of the Al-Jazeera journalist Homa Dorothy Parvaz, who had disappeared on arriving at Damascus airport on 29 April. Parvaz, who has US, Canadian and Iranian nationality, arrived this morning in the Qatari capital of Doha on a flight from Tehran.
The Syrian embassy in Washington had announced in a press release on 11 May that the Syrian authorities had deported Parvaz to Iran on 1 May. But Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi told Iran's official news agency IRNA on 14 May that Iran had "no information" about her.
The Seattle Times today quotes her brother as saying he spoke to her after her arrival in Doha. She told him that, while in Tehran, she was held in solitary confinement in Evin prison, interrogated by the authorities and denied any contact with her family. He did not say whether she mentioned being mistreated.
Tehran prosecutor-general Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi has meanwhile been quoted by IRNA as saying she was held for "verification" of her passport. She is expected to return to Canada tomorrow.
Reporters Without Borders hails today's release of four foreign journalists in Tripoli. An AFP reporter said they "appeared tired but in good health" when they arrived at the Rixos Hotel in Tripoli.
Three of the journalists were captured by pro-Gaddafi forces near Brega on 5 April. They are Clare Morgana Gillis, a US reporter covering Libya for The Atlantic magazine's website and other US media, James Foley, a US reporter working for GlobalPost.com, Stars and Stripes and Al-Jazeera, and Manu Brabo, a Spanish freelance photographer. The fourth is British journalist Nigel Chandler.
Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim had announced yesterday that four journalists would be released. However, while naming the first three, he had indicated that the fourth would be Anton Hammerl, a South African freelance photographer who disappeared the same day.
Today Ibrahim told journalists there had been a "mix-up" about the identity of the four journalists being released, adding that Hammerl had not been located.
According to the information obtained by Reporters Without Borders, all four journalists appeared before an administrative court yesterday on charges of entering the country illegally, for which they were fined 200 dinars (122 euros) and given a suspended sentence of one year in prison.
Since the start of the uprising in Libya on 16 February, many journalists have entered the country across the Egyptian border without permission to cover developments from rebel-held areas. In comments on 21 February, Muammar Gaddafi said he regarded such journalists as Al-Qaeda accomplices and as "stray dogs." At the same time, the government has invited foreign journalists to Tripoli to relay its own propaganda.
The following journalists are still held:
- Kamel Ataloua, a British journalist working for Al-Jazeera who has been held since the start of March
- Lotfi Ghars, a journalist with Tunisian and Canadian dual nationality working for Al-Alam TV, who has been held since 16 March
- Matthew VanDyke, an American freelancer who has been missing since 12 March
- Six Libyan journalists
Frederik Richter, a German journalist who has been the Reuters correspondent in Manama since 2008, left Bahrain yesterday at the behest of the government, which has accused him of biased reporting. In a dispatch published by Reuters yesterday, he described a country transformed by fear.
The government has been accusing the international media of supporting Bahrain's anti-government protesters ever since they began demonstrating in February. Many foreign reporters have been denied visas or turned back at Manama airport.
As a result of the government crackdown, Bahrainis began refusing to talk to Richter by phone, preferring discreet personal meetings. He had to use clandestine methods to meet his sources as both Bahrainis and foreign residents working for the government thought their phones were tapped.
Richter added that he thought King Hamad's announcement of the lifting of the state of emergency on 1 June has come too late for a country that has been traumatized by the government's handling of the crisis.
Reporters Without Borders is very disturbed by the course that events are taking in Oman, noting in particular that the Tamol.net ( http://www.tamol.net ) news website removed all of its videos of protests a few days after the Al-Hara Al-Omaniyya online forum was blocked.
The authorities have for several days been cracking down hard on anti-government demonstrations taking place in several parts of the country, including Muscat, the nearby port city of Sohar and the southern city of Salalah (1,000 km south of the capital). The protests and the repression are now getting virtually no news coverage.
Reporters Without Borders hails Syrian journalist and activist Malak Al-Shanawani's release on 15 May. She was held for six days.
What other IFEX members are saying
Committee to Protect Journalists
Reporters Without Borders