Libyans say they risk arrest or even death for talking to the foreign media because the authorities are desperate to stop information about their violent crackdown reaching the outside world.

A nationwide wave of protests against the 41-year rule of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has been met with a fierce response from security forces which, according to some European governments, has killed several thousand people.

The crackdown has also targeted anyone trying to send information out of the country which deviates from the government's own version of events.

A person outside Libya who has been helping pass witness accounts of what is happening to foreign media said it was getting harder and more dangerous.

The situation now is that phones are tapped and the regime has been directly targeting people who have spoken to the press, she said.

One of our contacts has been killed and another is currently in hiding as his life is in extreme danger.

Since the crisis in Libya began, foreign journalists have been barred from entering the country and local reporters have not been allowed to reach sensitive areas.

Instead, the media has been able to build a fragmented picture of the events inside Libya through conversations with witnesses by mobile phone, email or Skype.

But in the past few days the state telecoms regulator -- which is run by one of Gaddafi's sons -- has been blocking mobile phone SIM cards which receive or make international calls, according to one Libyan who encountered that problem.

When phones are working, many people are so frightened of possible reprisals for speaking to the foreign media that they do not answer calls from overseas.

When a Reuters reporter asked a resident of the eastern city of Benghazi if he could supply contacts in Tripoli, he said: I have friends there but I cannot give you their number for their own safety. We just do not know what could happen to them.


Libyan officials say they were forced to use moderate force to stop violent protesters with ties to al Qaeda who have been trying to destroy the country.

They said they were planning to bring a group of diplomats and foreign journalists to Tripoli Friday so they could see for themselves that this version was accurate.

Those who are plotting are not Libyans, but those who have unleashed their channels and spread poisonous stories and false rumors, one of Gaddafi's sons, Saif al-Islam, said on Libyan television Wednesday.

Information has flowed relatively freely from the east of Libya, around the city of Benghazi, since last week when central control there collapsed and journalists were able to enter the region by crossing over the border from Egypt.

Benghazi's Quryna newspaper has covered the violence in detail, and local people say there is even a radio station run by the rebel authorities.

For Libyans elsewhere, the only domestic source of information is state television, which shows traditional Libyan dancing and news bulletins offering a one-sided view of events.

All TV is showing is footage of his (Gaddafi's) supporters in Green Square, said one Tripoli resident, referring to the venue in central Tripoli for pro-Gaddafi rallies.

Some Libyans have been using the Internet to send out accounts of the security crackdown. But Internet connections are down most of the time, and when they work, people fear they could be under surveillance.

Officials loyal to Gaddafi are even taking steps to stop people physically taking evidence of the violence out of the country.

Egyptian laborer Sabri Abdel Aziz crossed into neighboring Tunisia Thursday after fleeing from the town of Garyan where he had been working.

He said that the army, at checkpoints close to the border, took travelers' mobile phones and tore up the memory cards -- which could be used to store photos or video.

Some people though are still prepared to send information to foreign media because they hope it can play a role in ending Gaddafi's rule.

It's real risky to pass true news about Libya, but it's worth it, said one Tripoli resident. The whole world needs to know what goes on now in Libya.