Tripoli, 8 March 2013:
The chairman of Alassema TV station, Juma . . .[restrict]Osta, and its former manager, Nabil Shebani, who were kidnapped yesterday, Thursday, when hundreds of gunmen attacked and trashed the station’s studios and offices were freed today by their captors. They were unharmed.
Following their release, the prime minister, Ali Zeidan, just back from a trip to Egypt, visited the station to condemn the attack.
“The Libyan people will confront anyone who wants to hijack the revolution for himself”, Zeidan said during his visit. No one would be allowed to “confiscate the freedoms of others”, he declared after meeting with Osta, adding that the government was “determined” to implement security and would address the issue of the presence of armed men acting outside the law.
The gunmen, estimated at between 200-300, broke into the headquarters of Alassema in Tripoli’s Gurgi district yesterday afternoon, accusing staff of causing disunity and discord with its programmes. They destroyed equipment, set fire to part of the premises and seized five members of staff: Osta and Shebani as well as Osta’s secretary, Mohamed Atif, and two presenters Mohamed Huni and Mahmoud Sharkisi. The latter three were later released in the evening.
Alassema staff told the Libya Herald yesterday that the gunmen included “revolutionaries and Islamists” and that some were in military uniform and others in civilian dress.
The attack was widely condemned by the authorities including the Ministry of Culture, the media and civil society institutions as an assault on the freedom of the media and opinion.
There are suspicions that the attackers are linked to those who on Tuesday stormed a meeting of the General National Congress, held members hostage while trying to force them to pass the Political Isolation Law, under which officials from the Qaddafi era would banned form holding office for 10 years, and then later shot at Congress President Mohamed Magarief’s car.
It is thought that the attack may have been in retaliation for the private television station’s decision to broadcast a debate on the law. [/restrict]