Tripoli, 4 October 2013:
The absence of the rule of law and a lack of security in Libya is putting journalists working in the country under increasing threat of armed attacks and abductions, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) has said.
The international freedom of press NGO has called on the Libyan authorities to ensure that a recent spate of serious attacks of media personnel do not go unpunished.
The editor of Tripoli-based newspaper Al-Rawasi, Taher Al-Turki, was shot in the leg and kidnapped and his brother murdered in front of his family as they drove from Tripoli to Zintan in late September. His family have apparently had no news of Turki since the abduction.
On 23 September, freelance journalist Ahmed Abdel Hakim Al-Mashaoui was arrested and detained overnight. The arrest appears to have been prompted by a telephone interview on Al-Assima TV during which he criticised Prime Minister Ali Zeidan’s government, the Muslim Brotherhood and the country’s armed militias. During interrogation, RWB said, he was put under pressure to phone Libyan TV channels to retract what he had said, but he refused.
Mashaoui has since been receiving intimidating messages and death threats.
Another freelance journalist, Mohammed Al-Hashim, was abducted at a military checkpoint near Tripoli’s Martyrs Square after identifying himself as a journalist. He was held at a secret prison for four days and was apparently tortured for some 12 hours, being whipped, given electric shocks and burnt with cigarettes, in an effort to force him to confess that he worked for the Qaddafi regime, something he denies.
“The Libyan authorities are subject to national and international obligations in respect of freedom of expression and information,” RWB pointed out, urging them to do whatever is necessary to ensure that journalists are able to work safely.
“They must do everything in their power to stop the abductions, threats and attacks on journalists as quickly as possible,” RWB said, “and must bring those responsible for these acts to justice in order to end the impunity and cycle of violence affecting media personnel.”
Journalists are frequently questioned and sometimes prevented from covering high-profile incidents live. At the recent attack on the Russian embassy, film crews were sent away from the scene.
Media personnel and their families have also been threatened, RWB said, including the editors of Libya Al-Jadida newspaper. The paper’s office was ransacked at the end of August and equipment, including computers, was taken. The offices of a local station Radio Zawiya were also recently fired on, damaging the manager’s office. No-one was injured.
In September, RWB voiced its concerns about repeated cases of violence against journalists and media outlets, particularly from armed militias, calling upon the authorities to do whatever necessary to protect media personnel.