White House Calls for Release of Journalists Detained in Libya

The White House is demanding the release of the four journalists who were detained on Tuesday by Libyan government troops, Press Secretary Jay Carney said at today's press briefing. The journalists, two of whom are American, are thought to be held in a government detention center in Tripoli.

"We call ... for the release of any journalists detained, any human rights activists, anyone detained unlawfully or inappropriately, and in this case, specifically with those journalists in mind, we call on and demand their release," Carney said.

U.S. citizens Clare Morgana Gillis, a freelancer who writes for The Atlantic and USA Today, and James Foley of Global Post were detained on Tuesday along with Spanish photographer Manuel (Manu) Varela de Seijas Brabo and South African photographer Anton Lazarus Hammerl. Gillis, Foley, and Brabo were last seen on Thursday at a government detention facility in Tripoli, where they were reportedly being treated well by government captors. The Atlantic has been unable to confirm whether Hammerl was also present at the detention center.

Carney said that the U.S. has made the journalists' release a priority. "We're very aware of this issue, and I know the State Department is working very hard in order to do what it can to facilitate those journalists' release," he said. "We take this very, very seriously, as we did when other journalists were detained."

Acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner said at a press briefing today that the U.S., which has no diplomatic presence in Libya, was working through "contacts on the ground" to secure the journalists' release. "We do work through I believe the Turks, for example." He added, "You know, it is difficult, frankly. We are limited in what we can do in Libya right now, except to make public appeals, like I can do right now. But beyond that, we can work through our protecting power there and try to get better information about their whereabouts. But we are limited, unfortunately."

The Libyan government does not currently acknowledge that it is holding the journalists and has not allowed any outside diplomats or journalists to visit them. When asked whether the White House was concerned, Carney responded, "I don't want to in any way say something that prejudices this situation, but there is great concern."

"We're relieved to hear that at least three of the missing journalists have been seen in official detention in Tripoli," Atlantic editor James Bennet said on Sunday. "We're calling on the Libyan government to release all four as quickly and safely as possible, and, in the meantime, to let foreign diplomats or journalists visit them."

See Also: South African Journalist Missing in Libya (Apr. 12)
Detained Journalists Thought to Be Held in Tripoli Jail (Apr. 10)
Reporters Detained in Libya Remain in Government Custody (Apr. 10)
Detained Journalists Believed to Be in Libyan Government Possession (Apr. 8)
Atlantic Reporter Detained in Libya (Apr. 7)

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Max Fisher is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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