NEW YORK — Four New York Times journalists covering the fighting in Libya were reported missing yesterday, and the newspaper held out hope that they were alive and in the custody of the Libyan government.
The missing journalists are Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Anthony Shadid, the newspaper’s Beirut bureau chief; Stephen Farrell, a reporter and videographer; and photographers Tyler Hicks and Lynsey Addario. In 2009, Farrell was kidnapped by the Taliban and later rescued by British commandos.
Editors last heard from the journalists Tuesday as they were covering the retreat of rebels from the town of Ajdabiya, and Libyan officials told the newspaper they were trying to locate the four, executive editor Bill Keller said in a statement. The Times said there were unconfirmed reports that Libyan forces had detained the foursome.
“We are grateful to the Libyan government for their assurance that if our journalists were captured they would be released promptly and unharmed,’’ Keller said.
The White House urged the Libyan government to refrain from harassing or using violence against journalists. Obama spokesman Jay Carney said the United States is firm in its belief that journalists should be protected and allowed to do their work.
The advocacy group Reporters Without Borders said it was asking its correspondents in Libya to help track down the journalists’ whereabouts.
“It’s a very dangerous climate for reporters right now,’’ said Clothilde Le Coz, Washington director for Reporters Without Borders.
“It’s a reminder that these are real people, and they are putting themselves at real risk to bring information out of these places.’’
Pro-Moammar Khadafy forces have largely gained control of Ajdabiya after two days of relentless shelling.All four journalists are veteran war correspondents.
Shadid worked as a foreign correspondent for The Boston Globe from 2000-2002. He was shot in the shoulder on March 31, 2002, while covering an Israeli incursion into Ramallah in the West Bank for the Globe.
After the Globe asked for an investigation by the Israel Defense Forces, the IDF said he was not shot by an Israeli soldier, but was more probably shot by a Palestinian fighter. But other witnesses said there was no apparent crossfire at the time and only one gunshot was heard in the area, which had been under Israeli military control for several days.
Shadid, who also had worked for the Washington Post and Associated Press, won the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting in 2004 and 2010 for his coverage of the Iraq war.
Hicks, a 1992 graduate of Boston University and a former photographer for the Troy Daily News in Ohio and the Wilmington Star-News in North Carolina, has worked in hotspots from Haiti to Chechnya. He was named Newspaper Photographer of the Year in 2007 by Pictures of the Year International and won an Infinity Award from the International Center of Photography in 2001.
Addario, who did freelance work for the Globe in Mexico, was part of the New York Times team that won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting, and also has worked for National Geographic and Time magazine. She won a MacArthur Fellowship, or “Genius Grant,’’ in 2009.
In September 2009, Farrell and Sultan Munadi, an Afghan journalist and interpreter, were taken hostage when they went to cover the aftermath of a NATO airstrike that killed scores of civilians in northern Afghanistan.
Munadi and a British commando died in the raid that rescued Farrell, a Briton. Farrell also was kidnapped in 2004 in Fallujah, Iraq. He previously worked for the Times of London.