This post has been updated.
As rebel fighters swiftly took control of much of Tripoli over the weekend, journalists in Libya’s capital city provided the world with a first hand view of the ongoing fighting, the celebrations and the danger they themselves are facing.
(Read live updates on the situation in Libya from BlogPost.)
As the Arab Spring has unfolded, much of the spotlight has been turned on the reporters who put themselves in the line of fire for the story, sometimes with tragic outcomes. In April, Tim Hetherington and Getty Images’s Chris Hondros were killed while embedded with Libyan rebels. Five journalists have died in the country this year.
While Western journalists flocked to Egypt after the fall of Hosni Mubarak, foreign journalists have had a much more difficult time in Libya. Moammar Gaddafi’s forces kept journalists under tight surveillance in Tripoli. The first journalists on the scene in the rapidly developing siege of Tripoli, therefore, were those that arrived with rebel fighters.
With the BBC, CNN, Fox News and especially MSNBC slow to begin coverage of the unfolding story, Sky News became the channel to watch Sunday night. The network’s Alex Crawford rode into the city with rebels. She has been broadcasting live from the city since Sunday in a helmet and flak jacket with the sound of gunfire in the background. “It has been the most astonishing 24 hours,” Crawford wrote in a detailed account from the scene.
Three of the first journalists to report from the scene in Tripoli were women, despite concerns raised about women foreign correspondents after the attack of CBS News’s Lara Logan in Egypt’s Tahrir Square,
The Sky News team provided the unflinching coverage using a a laptop connected to a mini-satellite dish charged by a car cigarette lighter, the Daily Telegraph reports. The team’s reporting has been praised by NPR’s Andy Carvin, CNN’s Piers Morgan and many others on Twitter and Facebook.
The situation in Libya rapidly changed Sunday, as Tripoli fell from the power of Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi , who is still at large. While celebrations took place in the streets over night, there is still fighting going on in parts of the city. CNN’s Sara Sidner reported that she and others were told to stay off the streets for their safety.
Indeed, the situation is still very dangerous for reporters. The BBC’s Rupert Wingfield-Hayes and his team were attacked by Gaddafi forces Monday morning, as they traveled with rebels into the city. No one was injured.
About three dozen other journalists in Tripoli are unable to report from the streets, as they remain trapped inside the Rixos, a government sanctioned hotel that is now without power. “We all want to go downtown to report on what's happening but it's not safe,” Reuters reporter Missy Ryan told the Guardian.
CNN’s Matthew Chance appeared on the network from the hotel via Skype. Chance told anchor Hala Gorani that the armed people responsible for protecting the guests were gone, leaving those left behind to fend for themselves. He shared his worries on Twitter: “@inquiries to our safety -- No we do not feel safe. Heavy gunfire outside the hotel. fingers crossed #CNN #tripoli #Libya.”
The BBC’s Matthew Price provided a similarly tense account from inside the hotel. “We gathered - the international media together - to work out what we might do. Body armor on, escape routes chosen. No route to the port, no boats there to take us out anyway,” the reporter wrote. “Outside in the hotel lobby one of the younger armed men was shouting at a member of the media, accusing him of calling in information to the rebels. We edged away from him and his AK-47.”
Update: Chance and his fellow journalists are still inside the Rixos. The reporter tweeted that Gaddafi’s gunmen will not allow them to leave. ”Mood in #Rixos much darker than before. Everyone really worried about what's going to happen to us,” he tweeted.
Read tweets from Chance and CNN’s Jomana Karadsheh.
Watch Matthew Chance report from the Rixos below.