The Cutline

Hope for family of U.S. journalist still missing in Libya

Joe Pompeo
The Cutline

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Matthew VanDyke (wbaltv.com)

As the headlines have turned to phone-hackings, debt ceilings and salacious murder and rape trials, it seems eons ago that The Cutline was writing regularly about the ongoing civil war in Libya; more specifically, about foreign journalists being captured, imprisoned and killed in the restive North African nation.

At least one American reporter remains missing there, Baltimore-based freelancer Matthew VanDyke, though his family has received some encouraging news.

VanDyke, who disappeared one week after his arrival in Libya in March to cover the uprising against strongman Muammar Gadhafi, was recently spotted in a prison near the nation's capital Tripoli, his mother and a U.S. congressman confirmed to a local NBC affiliate.

WBAL TV reports:

The writer's mother, Sharon VanDyke, said she learned about the sightings Monday and alerted State Department officials, but wanted to give them time to start checking on the information before telling a wider circle of family and friends early Thursday. She said she was told her son was in good health, but declined to say how she learned of the sightings.

Previously she had heard from a friend of her son that an unnamed man told him Matthew VanDyke was in a prison, but there was no specific person with whom officials could check.

"It's exciting, a real adrenaline rush," Sharon VanDyke said. "That's the best news that we've had, and it's credible enough for the State Department to move on."

Back in May, a group of three foreign correspondents—including an American freelancer for USA Today and The Atlantic—who'd been swept up by Gadhafi forces while shadowing a group of rebels, were released after 44 days in detention. (A fourth journalist who'd been traveling with them was killed during the skirmish that led to their capture.)

Prior to that, two prominent American photojournalists were killed by a mid-battle explosion, and four New York Times journalists were captured, beaten and detained for more than a week. Journalists from other countries also have been detained and killed while covering the conflict.