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Libya Releases Four Detained New York Times Journalists

The Libyan government released four New York Times journalists on Monday. The journalists, who appear unharmed in a photo released by the Turkish embassy, are expected to reveal the conditions of their captivity later today.

The journalists, Anthony Shadid, The Times’s Beirut bureau chief; two photographers, Tyler Hicks and Lynsey Addario; and a reporter and videographer, Stephen Farrell, were captured six days ago while reporting in the eastern Libyan city of Ajdabiya. The Times reports the four were released into the custody of Turkish diplomats and have crossed safely into Tunisia:

Like many Western journalists, the four had entered the rebel-controlled eastern region of Libya over the Egyptian border without visas to cover the insurrection against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. They were detained by forces loyal to Colonel Qaddafi in Ajdabiya.

After The New York Times reported having lost contact with the journalists last Tuesday, officials with the government of Muammar Gaddafi pledged that if they had been detained by the government’s military forces, they would be located and released unharmed.

Here’s Times executive editor Bill Keller‘s memo to staff. He calls it a “moment of celebration:

To the Staff:
We’re overjoyed to report that our four journalists missing in Libya since Tuesday morning are free and have arrived safely in Tunisia. The Libyan government informed us through various channels Thursday afternoon that Anthony, Tyler, Lynsey and Steve were in Tripoli, in the custody of the Libyan authorities, and would be freed soon. The four were allowed to speak to their families by phone Thursday night. Because of the volatile situation in Libya, we’ve kept our enthusiasm and comments in check until they were out of the country, but now feels like a moment for celebration. And before long we’ll all know the details of their experience.
We’re particularly indebted to the Government of Turkey, which intervened on our behalf to oversee the release of our journalists and bring them to Tunisia. We were also assisted throughout the week by diplomats from the United States and United Kingdom.
Arthur spoke on Thursday about The Times as a family, and it certainly felt like one during the many hours of worry and activity focused on our missing journalists. In fact it felt like something of an extended family, as journalists from rival news organizations, governments (our own and others), press freedom groups and other intermediaries rushed to offer their help in locating our people and securing their release. There are too many people to thank, but I will tip my hat to David McCraw, who has become entirely too expert at the business of extricating Times journalists from peril. I also need to thank Chris Chivers, who dropped everything to come in Thursday night and spent the last three days (and nights) dug in with David working on the release.
And, in a week when we have dared to declare that the work we do is worth paying for, this is a reminder that real, boots-on-the-ground journalism is hard and sometimes dangerous work. To the many colleagues who are deployed in hard places — the battleground streets of North Africa and the Middle East, the battered landscape of Japan — we implore you to be careful.
Best,
Bill

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