Libya could relax ban on foreign journalists on Friday

Libya is reportedly planning to allow some Western journalists to report from the capital, Tripoli, tomorrow, but has warned those who have already entered without proper government accreditation that they face immediate arrest and will be considered al-Qaeda collaborators.

Foreign media have been trying to gain access for the past week to cover the violent protests that have gripped the country, as protestors call for the end of Colonel Gaddafi’s 42-year rule.

Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya have been relying on user-generated content sent in from around the country to keep on top of the story. The Independent’s Robert Fisk managed to file a report from Tripoli following a brief visit there.

Gaddafi’s son said in an interview with Libyan state television that some journalists would be allowed into the capital Tripoli on Friday. The Washington Post says Libya will do this “so [journalists] can corroborate the government’s claim that the country remains under Gaddafi’s control”.

According to the US state department, Libyan officials say they will grant access to CNN, BBC Arabic and Al-Arabiya.

It said, however, that any reporters who have entered without government permission to cover the violent unrest sweeping the country risked “immediate arrest on the full range of possible immigration charges” and considered al-Qaeda “collaborators”.

The warning to news organisations from the US state department says: “Be advised, entering Libya to report on the events unfolding there is additionally hazardous with the government labeling unauthorized media as terrorist collaborators and claiming they will be arrested if caught.”

The government appears to have lost control of parts of eastern Libya, including the second biggest city Benghazi. As a result, some reporters have managed to get into the country by crossing the border from Egypt.

The Daily Mail says crowds in Benghazi “cheered as international journalists drove through the city – and the only shooting that could be heard was celebratory gunfire”.

CNN’s Ben Wedeman tweeted from the city yesterday: “As first western TV crew to make it to Benghazi we were greeted like liberators, pelted with candy, cheers and thanks. Very humbling.”

The Guardian’s Martin Chulov is there and has been posting updates on Audioboo. ITV News also has a team in the east of the country.

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