I said to her: ‘You keep your head down and be safe, because many people back here care’
As fierce fighting continued in the streets of Tripoli last night, messages of support from Cambodia poured in for former Phnom Penh Post photo editor Tracey Shelton after news broke that she had been brutally attacked in the Libyan city of Benghazi.
Two men carrying guns and knives and wearing military fatigues broke into her room on August 11 at about 3:00am, according to foreign correspondent group the Committee to Protect Journalists. She was reportedly tied up, beaten and only escaped by climbing through a window to a nearby balcony.
The 35-year-old photographer, who could not be reached yesterday as she was in transit to the Libyan capital of Tripoli, told CPJ that the men had planned to kidnap her. The interim National Transitional Council in Benghazi has launched an investigation into the attack.
Shelton, an Australian journalist who left the Post in early 2010 to work abroad, spent more than a decade working and volunteering in the Kingdom. She has also worked for the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia and Abu Dhabi’s The National.
Geraldine Cox, president and operator of Sunrise Children’s Village orphanages in Cambodia, said yesterday that Shelton first volunteered for her organisation in 1998 and had taught herself photography while helping children to learn English and use computers.
“She still comes regularly to the orphanage, and sends regular emails. The kids still love her, she is still a big part of their lives,” she said.
“When she told me what happened in Benghazi, I said to her: ‘You keep your head down and be safe, because many people back here care for you and miss you’.”
Former colleagues also lent their support. Managing Editor of Phnom Penh Post Khmer, Sam Rith, who worked with Shelton for more than five years, described her as a “very respectful” and “professional” journalist and photographer.
“I wish her all the best,” he said.
Shelton lost all her equipment in the attack but is believed to be heading to Tripoli regardless in the hope of witnessing the fall of the Gaddafi regime.