Journalists 'linked with IDF'

By Jessica Elgot, March 8, 2012
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Claims by Libyan militia linking two captive British journalists to the Israeli Defence Forces is "media manipulation", say human rights experts.

Faraj Swehli, commander of the Libyan militia, said the two Press TV journalists detained in Misrata were being held for "possible espionage" after IDF equipment was apparently found in the men's belonging. The two reporters, Nicholas Davies and Gareth Montgomery-Johnson, were also alleged to have entered the country illegally.

Human Rights Watch's researcher in Libya, Sidney Kwiram, who has been attempting to visit the captives, hinted that it was part of a media strategy to link the men with Israel, and said that objects could have been planted.

"The longer armed groups make arrests and hold prisoners, now including foreign journalists, the harder it becomes to bring these groups under control," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

Part of the specific "evidence" laid in front of journalists at a press conference last week included a bandage "only issued by the Israeli army," according to Mr Swehli. The men would be "handed over to our intelligence services if they are proved to be spies,"he said.

Britain has been providing consular services to the detained journalists. The IDF declined to comment.

    Last updated: 1:32pm, March 8 2012