photo illustration by Mico Mazza

Friends call on authorities to help rescue journalist

MAHDI NAZEMROAYA, A recent graduate from the University of Ottawa, has called on his friends and acquaintances to help him leave Libya. After spending the past two months in the country working as an independent journalist, he now fears for his life because of the civil conflict in the country’s capital, Tripoli.

“Yesterday at 11:37 a.m., I got a call from Mahdi … and he told me that he was stuck in a hotel in Tripoli, fearing for his life, believing he had about 24 hours to live, [and] asking me to do anything in my power to help him. It was a very intense call,” said Mireille Gervais, the director of the Student Appeal Centre at the U of O, in an interview with the Fulcrum on Aug. 23.

Nazemroaya was in Libya reporting on the rebels who have been trying to overthrow Libya’s dictator Moammar Gadhafi in an attempt to take back their country’s independence. Nazemroaya stopped reporting when his own life became endangered.

The alumnus has since contacted long-time friend Michel Chossudovsky, a  professor of economics at the U of O.

“I’ve been in contact with him almost every day. It’s usually email, or Skype, or text messaging. It’s all centred on his security right now. He hasn’t been reporting actively over the past two days,” said Chossudovsky on Aug. 26; however, Nazemroaya told Gervais last week that he and the other journalists staying at hotel Rixos Al Nasr were moved to a safer location in rebel territory.

By Nazemroaya’s request, both Chossudovsky and Gervais have been trying to get the attention of the Department of Foreign Affairs. Although organizations like the United Nations, Red Cross, and the International Organization for Migration helped move the journalists to a safer hotel, the danger is far from over.

“If he was still [at the hotel], I probably would have gotten emails. We have a responsibility to bring him back. His life is threatened,” said Chossudovsky, concerned that no new communication has come from Nazemroaya—particularly because they have tried to stay in contact as much as possible since the beginning of his trip.

“We have had no news of Mahdi since Thursday night; we are very concerned for his safety,” wrote Chossudovsky in an email to the Fulcrum on Aug. 27.

Despite Chossudovsky and Gervais’ best efforts to help evacuate Nazemroaya from the danger zone, they have received little response from Foreign Affairs. Although the UN organized a boat by which all freelance journalists could leave Libya safely, secure passage to the boat is problematic. Chossudovsky and Gervais are hopeful the Department of Foreign Affairs will become involved.

“We’re still doing everything we can to get him back to Canada. It’s not an easy task because we haven’t had much response from the ministry,” said Chossudovsky.

Nazemroaya graduated from the University of Ottawa in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology, with plans to attend Carleton University for a master’s degree this fall. The 29-year-old journalist contributed to publications such as Al-Jazeera and Russia Today.

Nazemroaya has not been heard from as of Aug. 28.

-Jane Lytvynenko