May 7, 2014 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Freedom of information under constant attack

Reporters Without Borders is dismayed and alarmed by the constant threats to journalists in Libya, who have to work in an increasingly dangerous environment in which carrying a camera, hosting a TV programme or writing an article arouses the suspicions of the various armed groups, and possibly violent reactions. In one the latest incidents, Hassan Al-Bakush, the Benghazi correspondent of the privately-owned satellite TV station Libya Li Kul Al-Ahrar, survived an apparent murder attempt while taking a taxi to work on 5 May. Bakush said the taxi was waiting at a traffic light in the district of Al-Kaysh when a Toyota pickup drew alongside and gunmen opened fire before driving away. By chance, neither Bakush nor the taxi driver was hit. Although Bakush is not sure who was responsible for this act of extreme violence “because of the chaos prevailing in Benghazi,” he linked it to his coverage of an attack on the headquarters of the security services in Benghazi on 2 May, in which eight people were killed and which the government blamed on the Islamist militia Ansar Al-Shari’a. A source close to Ansar Al-Shari’a warned a Libyan photographer working for an international news agency on 4 May that the militia was after him for taking photos of some of its members while he was at the security headquarters covering the attack. A spate of attacks on media targets began on 20 March when shots were fired at the Benghazi offices of the privately-owned satellite TV station Libya TV and two of its satellite transmission vehicles. The identity of those responsible and their motive are still unknown. No injuries were reported. Four days later, Mohamed Aburras, a presenter on state-owned TV station Al-Wataniya, was ambushed as he left the radio station in Tripoli at around 10 pm. Two cars tried to cause an accident by forcing him to drive into traffic coming from the opposition direction. He finally managed to evade his attackers without being injured. This was the third time that Burras has been attacked. In July 2013, he was the target of an apparent murder attempt while at a Tripoli gas station. Issam Al-Oul, the editor of the privately-owned Libyan newspaper Al-Watan, was kidnapped from outside his home in the Tripoli district of Salah Al-Din by an armed group on 26 March and was held for three days, during which he was mistreated and was subjected to torture, including electric shocks and whipping. Al-Oul could not confirm the identity of his abductors but their motives were thought to be linked to statements in his newspaper about certain politicians. After being released, he spent two weeks in a hospital abroad receiving treatment to the injuries sustained during his abduction. Mahmoud Al-Misrati, the editor of the Tripoli-based independent newspaper Libya Al-Jadida, has been the target of threatening messages on social networks for months. His wife and son have also been threatened with abduction. He thinks Islamist groups and members of the Libyan Revolutionaries Operations Room are responsible. A rocket-propelled grenade was fired at his home on 15 January but missed. Khadija El-Emaime, the satellite TV station Libya Li Kul Al-Ahrar’s Benghazi bureau chief and a reporter for the very popular news website Libya Al-Mustaqbal, has been the target of attacks by – probably jihadi – armed groups that also keep on sending her threatening messages. She recently received a warning that her “fingers will be cut off” if she does not “immediately stop writing” and covering the actions of the Benghazi militias. She was the target of a shooting attack on a Benghazi street in August 2013 but survived unhurt. Since the start of 2014, Reporters Without Borders has come to the aid of three journalists who were being threatened in connection with their work and had to flee the country. Threats, abductions and various forms of violence continue to take a toll on the existence of those journalists who have decided to keep working regardless of the risks. Reporters Without Borders salutes the courage and determination of the Libyan journalists who fight for the right to information to be recognized and respected in Libya. Despite the Gaddafi dictatorship’s overthrow, the right to “hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers,” enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, continues to be flouted every day in Libya. After the constituent assembly’s inaugural session in the eastern city of Bayda on 21 April and Ahmed Maitig’s appointment as prime minister by the General National Congress (the parliament), Reporters Without Borders urges all the competent authorities to quickly take effective measures to end the dangers for journalists. Reporters Without Borders reiterates the crucial importance of a constitution that provides solid guarantees for the freedoms of expression, opinion and information. At the legislative and judiciary level, laws must be adopted quickly to prevent violations of freedom of information and to end the impunity prevailing in Libya.