Libya journalists still in captivity as Clinton calls for their release


From left to right: James Foley, Clare Gillis, Manu Brabo and Anton Hammerl (Screengrab, "Free James Foley and Clare Gillis," Facebook.com)

Journalist James Foley has been missing in Libya for the past 17 days. “I’m concerned it’s going to become yesterday’s news,” said Michael Foley, his younger brother.

Foley, a correspondent with the Boston-based Global­Post, Clare Morgana Gillis, a contributor to the Atlantic and USA Today, and photographers Manu Brabo of Spain and Anton Hammerl of South Africa, have been missing since April 5, when they were reportedly taken into custody by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi. They were last seen in a Tripoli detention camp April 7.

Update:The Atlantic reports that Gillis made contact with her family Thursday afternoon in a 15-minute phone call from a women’s jail in Tripoli; she relayed that she is in good health. Gillis also added that Hammerl was not traveling with her group when she was taken into custody — his status is unknown.

From Boston, Michael described the past 17 days as a “guessing game” involving “24/7” work updating the family’s Web site, reaching out to media outlets and pushing government agencies for a response. “We’ve just been able to recently break through levels of media and government.”

The media attention surrounding these four missing journalists, all freelance correspondents, pales in comparison to national headlines made last month when the same number of New York Times journalists were captured in the city of Ajdabiya and spent six days in captivity. But friends and family have taken to social media to spark activism at the grass-roots level.

Their efforts may be paying off. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pressed the case for their release Thursday morning.

Clinton called for the release of “at least” two missing reporters — American citizens Foley and Gillis.

“I say ‘at least’ because we do not have any accurate information coming from Libyan authorities about other inquiries that we have made regarding their continuing harassment and detention of journalists, including Americans,” Clinton said.

Clinton’s statement comes a day after photographers Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros died from wounds sustained in a mortar blast in Misurata. According to the Committee to Project Journalists, four journalists have died working in Libya in 2011.

Gillis’s parents, who were first made aware of their daughter’s arrest via Facebook, appeared on “The Today Show” Thursday morning to call for her release:

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Each missing journalist has a Facebook page dedicated to news of their whereabouts. Administrators of “Help Free James Foley and Clare Gillis” have encouraged solidarity by asking group members to share a quick story of their friends, and a growing number of news updates from around the Web are posted almost hourly. It’s a similar scene on pages dedicated to Brabo and Hammerl, respectively.

Supporters are also taking to Twitter, tweeting news organizations in hopes of more widespread coverage. A Twitter feed exists soley to keep followers updated on news about Gillis. Here’s a roundup of some of the news:

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