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March 16, 2011

Gadhafi murders Qatari journalist

Reuel S. Amdur

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Qatari Ali Hassan al-Jaber was assassinated by Gadhafi agents on March 12. Al-Jaber was working as a photographer for al-Jazeera. He and correspondent Baybah Wald Amhadi were attacked in their car outside Benghazi. Amhadi said that they were aware of being under surveillance for days before the attack. Al-Jaber was struck by three bullets and Amhadi was also wounded in the attack.

The assassination should be no surprise. Gadhafi blamed al-Jazeera for the upheaval in his country.  Or, as the old line, favorite of despots, goes, “It’s the work of outside agitators.”

Truth, it is said, is the first casualty in time of war. 

Gadhafi has kept foreign reporters on a tight leash, showing them just what he wanted them to see.  Those who evade his control measures can find themselves in deep trouble. 

Thus, three BBC reporters who were captured by loyalist forces while trying to reach a contested city were subjected to mock executions while being held.  A soldier fired a shot from his weapon next to one reporter’s ear.

Wadah Khanfar, director general of al-Jazeera, described al-Jaber as “one of those people who lived and eventually died in the pursuit of truth.” 

He also commented on Gadhafi’s effort to scapegoat the station.  The station demands that those responsible for the murder be brought to justice.

Reporters Without Borders was “outraged” by the crime, and Amnesty International “condemned the killing.”  It “warned of a campaign of attacks and harassment on journalists,” citing the treatment of the three BBC journalists.

“It appears that the al-Jazeera team was brutally and deliberately targeted to stop its efforts to reveal the truth about what is happening in Libya,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North African Director.  He called on the UN Human Rights Council to include this killing as part of its investigation of the situation in the country.

Amnesty International also noted that, in addition to al-Jazeera and the three BBC journalists, a Brazilian reporter had been held captive and only recently released.  And Ghaith Abdul Ahamad, an Iraqi working for the Guardian, who was traveling with the Brazilian, is apparently still being held. 

While Gadhafi is allergic to the truth, his opposition is much more open. 

Al-Jaber was a Qatari, but in Benghazi they placed a Libyan flag on his coffin, in appreciation for what he and al-Jazeera had contributed by their truth-telling.  Benghazi residents held a rally in his honor.  Some held banners proclaiming, “Targeting journalists reveals the criminal regime of the tyrant.”

Al-Jaber, born in 1955, studied cinematography at Cairo’s Academy of Arts, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees. 

He was director of CNBC Arabiya TV in Qatar, a supervisor of the National Olympic Committee, and served as head of filming on Qatar television for 20 years, during which time he produced a number of documentaries.

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