BBC staff attacked in Libya
On the 20 February, on this blog, BBC World News Editor Jon Williams wrote: "Reporting from Libya is tricky at the best of times - clearly, the situation there right now is anything but."
Feras Killani (L) and Goktay Koraltan
Never a truer word spoken. Nevertheless, the BBC deployed on the ground in Tripoli and the "liberated" areas, as well as at the borders with Egypt and Tunisia. Our reporters are working hard for our domestic and global audiences to make sense of a complex and fragmented story that came hard on the heels of Tunisia and Egypt and yet is so radically different.
The BBC's news gathering operation is flawlessly run. Nothing is ever left to chance. All our reporters and correspondents go through a strict and robust safety training, equipped to deal with the most unpredictable of situations. So, with our BBC Arabic team working with their English colleagues in Tripoli and elsewhere under the watchful eye of our Middle East bureau chief Paul Danahar, I was confident everything was taken care of.
But it would be untrue to say that I didn't expect "the call", the editor's nightmare come true. And "the call" did come.
Paul rang London to say our BBC Arabic team in Tripoli had been detained by pro-Gaddafi forces. Feras Killani, Goktay Koraltan, and Chris Cobb-Smith had been arrested at a military checkpoint outside the city of Zawiya.
Now that they've told their story and are safely out of Libya, we know that they were then taken to a massive military compound in Tripoli where they were blindfolded, handcuffed, and beaten. And we know that for 21 hours they were subjected to physical violence and psychological terror at the hands of Colonel Gaddafi's security forces.
They were kicked around, threatened with death, hooded and blindfolded, left in a cage and subjected to mock executions.
Feras, a correspondent of Palestinian descent, was singled out for special treatment.
"[They] took me out to the car park behind the guard room. Then [they] started hitting me without saying anything. First with fist, then boots, then knees. Then [they] found a plastic pipe on the ground and beat me with that. Then one of the soldiers gave them a long stick ..."
It continued later, only this time it was even worse:
"I was on the floor on my side, hands and feet cuffed, lying half on a mattress, and they were beating me... They were saying I'm a spy working for British intelligence."
You could argue this is pretty terrible but after all nothing new; journalists around the world face this kind of violence every day in the course of their work. The Committee to Protect Journalists lists 850 reporters killed since 1992. The BBC World service lost two journalists over a 48-hour period in June 2008, when Samad Rohani of the Afghan Service and Nasteh Dahir of the Somali Service were killed in their respective countries. And of course we all recall the four-month ordeal of Alan Johnston, kidnapped and held by militants in Gaza.
But this is not just a story about journalists and the dangers they face in doing their jobs. This is a story about torture and hidden victims, and what happens when there is no one to tell it and lift the veil.
When Feras, Gotkan and Chris were put in a metal cage, they could hear the screams of people being tortured. Soon those people were brought into the cage, men and women, Libyans and non Libyans, some in a terrible state. Their story has to be told.
As he was being beaten, Feras was told by the Libyans that they didn't like his reports. He was being punished for the content of his journalism - that he, like every single one of our journalists, works hard at ensuring impartiality, that he reports in Arabic, on a BBC channel available in Libya, in a language understood by those meeting out the beatings, only made matters worse for him.
Our journalists are tested every day and Libya is but the latest in a series of conflicts they're covering. Some like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, are among the toughest stories to report. Yet when tensions run high and violence becomes the norm, we need to be there, with the insightful, in-depth coverage that only being on the ground can yield.
Liliane Landor is languages controller of BBC Global News