By Sami Zaptia.
London, 3 November 2020:
The Ambassador of the European Union and the Ambassadors of EU Member States accredited to Libya call on the Libyan leadership to protect media freedom and create a safe environment for journalists in Libya to do their job.
The call came in a statement by EU ambassadors issued yesterday on the occasion of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists.
The statement said Libya remains a tough place for journalists, media professionals and activists who continue to face intimidation and smear campaigns, attacks on their homes, families and physical integrity, and arbitrary prosecution for the work they do. The conflict has further exacerbated threats to media freedom in Libya.
Journalists and media professionals, the statement continued, work under extremely high personal risk in Libya which ranks 164th on the World Press Freedom Index in 2020. In May 2020, photojournalist Ismail Bouzriba Al-Zoui was sentenced to no less than 15 years in prison by a military court in Benghazi. In August, radio journalist Sami al-Sharif was detained and reportedly tortured after covering protests in Tripoli. Mohammed Omar Baio, Head of the Libyan Media Office, was unlawfully arrested in Tripoli on 20 October. Journalists invited to international events have been harassed upon their return to Libya.
The EU statement added that Journalists, media professionals, bloggers and activists have a crucial role in holding governments to account and ensuring people have access to impartial and valid information. Libya has recently seen an unprecedented increase in disinformation circulating on social media and offline, fuelling the conflict. Professional journalism and a trustworthy press are urgently needed to counter false narratives and incitement of hate. Libya stands at a crossroads in its peace process. To build trust among society, and thus contribute to lasting peace, political leaders in Libya must support a free press and create a safe environment for media workers.
The EU statement urged the Libyan leadership to protect independent media and bring to justice those who commit crimes against journalists. Journalists should be able to carry out their work without fear of violence, censorship or threats of prosecution under false pretences and charges. It also asked the Libyan authorities to ease obstacles that foreign journalists encounter in doing their job in Libya.