Egyptians leaving Libya through the Salloum land port gate on February 22 . (photo: Tarek Fawzy/AP)
With foreign journalists banned in Libya, it's been very difficult to confirm the reports emerging by phone and social media that the government is brutally cracking down on protesters demanding the ouster of the country's strongman leader Muammar Al-Qathafi, Michael Calderone writes on The Cutline blog.
Then he goes on to say: But as Gaddafi's regime appears to be crumbling - with the opposition now controlling a large swath of the eastern border - journalists are finally making their way in to cover the week-long revolt firsthand.
The Guardian reported Monday night that it looked like the "floodgates" were about to open, and since last night, several Western journalists have entered the authoritarian country.
CNN's Cairo bureau chief Ben Wedeman was the first Western television journalist to make it on air from within Libya, appearing Monday evening from an undisclosed location and tweeting from the ground.
"When we crossed the border, there were no government officials," Wedeman said Monday on CNN's "Parker Spitzer." "There were no soldiers or policemen. No formalities to speak of." You can watch Wedeman's report below:
Covering Libya has been much tougher for Western journalists than reporting from Egypt over the past month. True, there were a few very difficult days for journalists in Egypt, as pro-Mubarak mobs attacked them on the street and targeted hotels.
But for most of the 18-day uprising, journalists were able to report extensively from the demonstrations in Tahrir Square.
Also, Egypt doesn't ban foreign journalists. The Mubarak regime had a tight grip on the country's state-run media, but by the standards of the region adopted a fairly open policy in permitting foreign journalists to work in the country. NBC chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel-who earned ample praise for his Egypt coverage--even lived in Cairo for several years while learning Arabic and reporting from the region.
Engel has also just made it into eastern Libya, and appeared on MSNBC a few times on Tuesday. Watch one report below:
The BBC appears to have had the first Western journalist reporting from within Libya on Monday - though the network didn't identify who the correspondent was. By Tuesday, journalists from several news outlets began arriving, including Leila Fadel, the Washington Post's Cairo bureau chief who was detained in Egypt. The New York Times' Kareem Fahim reported Tuesday from Tobruk, in northeastern Libya.
"Warm welcome on Libyan side," tweeted Wall Street Journal reporter Charles Levinson on Tuesday morning. (Engel also mentioned that the opposition was happy to see western journalists arriving to cover Al-Qathafiís crackdown.)
But a border works both ways. And as more journalists enter Libya, Levinson reported that many Egyptian workers in the country are crossing the border to escape the revolt.