One week ago, today, two video journalists from the city of Misurata were kidnapped while covering Libya’s historic national elections. I had the pleasure to meet and work with these men during my recent trip there with my colleague and co-trainer Louis Abelman in May 2012.
Abdelqadr Fassouk and Yusuf Badi worked together as part of a three man team during our video boot camp in Misurata. Together they worked to produce a story about the head of the nursing department at Misurata’s only hospital.
The team did great visual work at the time, demonstrating a clear understanding of how to produce brief news packages. However they missed one small detail. They decided to record the video without audio.
When Louis and I explained their mistake, Abdelqadr and Yusuf insisted on reshooting the piece in its entirety. They exemplified a typical character of Misuratis, willingness to do whatever it took to get the job done.
Though the two men work well as a team, it’s clear sometimes they face some tension. Abdelqadr wished to learn the basics of editing. He wanted to finish the piece quickly and submit it to the election awareness campaign SWN was working on with the support of Doha Centre for Media Freedom. Yusuf, on the other hand, was far more interested in cutting and re-cutting the piece. His goal was not to finish the piece, but to understand the editing software, deleting the finished sequence and starting from scratch each time.
The term “Frenemies” might be fitting. Both men were generally good humored and if they aren’t getting in each other’s way, I trust they’d have no better companion in such a trying time.
Despite their good company, I am greatly concerned about their safety. The Facebook era has meant that repeated false claims of their release have been widely distributed by colleagues, friends, and fellow Libyans who desperately want the news to be true. As of this writing, Abdelqadr and Yusuf are still detained, and though their general whereabouts are believed to be inside Bani Walid, their specific location is unknown.
Misurata and Bani Walid have a longstanding feud, exacerbated by the Libyan revolution. The kidnapping of two much-loved journalists from Misurata has pushed the conflict again to the front of discourse about the future of the new Libyan state. So far, Facebook rumors notwithstanding, negotiations have not yet completely broken down. Though many are campaigning to use the kidnapping as a pretext to return to war, they’ve thus far not been successful. For the sake of Abdelqadr, Yusuf, and all of Libya, I hope our friends will be freed without further violence.
Small World News
[For additional information about Abdelqadr Fassouk and Yusuf Badi, see the Committee to Protect Journalists's Libya alerts, Reporters Without Borders, and articles by the Libya Herald, Associated Press, and McClatchy.]