Friends of Clare M. Gillis—Harvard graduate and freelance journalist—urged for more action to bring back captured journalists in Libya at an event on Tuesday, which was World Press Freedom Day and also marked a month after Gillis was captured by Libyan loyalists.
A group of Gillis’ friends showed their support at an event in Boston honoring the work of James Foley, another freelance reporter who was detained in Libya with Gillis.
Family and friends of Foley shared his stories and writings, in addition to combat videos recorded while he was in Libya.
Ece G. Turnator, a Harvard graduate student who has known Gillis for five years, delivered a brief speech in support of the event and called for joint efforts to expedite the release of Foley and Gillis.
“We should act together and show a united front,” Turnator said. “When both come back, we will have a good party.”
Yet despite the optimism expressed by Turnator, the recent developments in Libya have made the situation of the captured journalists more uncertain than a week ago, when Gillis was allowed to make a second call home.
The Turkish government, which was previously negotiating for the journalists’ release through its embassy in Tripoli, made the decision to temporarily evacuate the embassy on Monday due to safety concerns following the NATO mission strike that the Libyan government claims killed one of Muammar Gaddafi’s sons and three of his grandchildren.
Michael Foley, James Foley’s brother, said the U.S. Department of State has not communicated to him about a “second course of action” after the Turkish embassy evacuation.
“The situation is dire out there,” Michael Foley said. “The amount of action required of all of us has now doubled. One conclusion is that if people in the room here aren’t prone to action, I don’t know if we will see a positive outcome.”
Renee Loth, an editorial editor at The Boston Globe who was at the event, stressed journalists’ safety and acknowledged the importance of Gillis and Foley’s work.
“Journalists operating in war zones should be considered civilians, with all the protection and immunity that civilians enjoy,” Loth said. “Reporters like James and Clare are the root and branches of democracy—they must be protected.”
Friends of Gillis are planning on holding a vigil in Harvard Yard next Monday, hoping to draw more support and attention to Gillis’ situation in Libya.
“This event shows a lot of people are putting pressure on all that they can think of to get the release of the imprisoned journalists,” said Jesse C. Howell, another friend of Gillis and a Harvard graduate student.
Howell said that individuals should continue to publicize the journalists’ ongoing captivity via mass media and the U.S. should uphold diplomatic pressure on the Libyan government.
“It makes me feel much more real to be here, hearing James’ parents talk. It also makes Clare’s situation much more present,” Howell added. “We really don’t know what effort would create the change, but like Michael said, there is really no effort that’s too small.”
—Staff writer Heng Shao can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.