Reporters Without Borders is extremely concerned about the deteriorating security situation in Libya and the behaviour of certain militias towards media personnel. Journalists have repeatedly been attacked, threatened or kidnapped by militias in recent months.
RWB urges the Libyan government to guarantee the safety of journalists and to control the behaviour of militias operating under the command of the defence or interior ministries or integrated into other state entities, even if only on an ad hoc basis. Those responsible for abuses against journalists must be punished.
A journalist with an international news agency was arrested by members of a militia in broad daylight in Benghazi on 20 May for “interrogation.” He was finally released late in the evening after being hit, insulted and threatened.
An international news agency photographer and local citizen-journalist Mohamed Abu Janah were arbitrarily detained for several hours on 28 May at the Benghazi headquarters of “Libya Shield No. 7,” an armed unit formed by revolutionary militiamen loosely attached to the defence ministry.
The photographer was initially summoned by one of the unit’s commanders to take photos of their HQ, But as he and Janah left, they were approached by four militiamen who temporarily seized his camera and took them to a room where they were subjected to four hours of interrogation accompanied by threats and insults.
They were finally released after young activists staged a demonstration outside the militia’s headquarters. The militiamen claimed that the two journalists were detained for breaking into their HQ but the journalists said this was completely untrue.
A gunman in civilian dress arrested an American journalist and his Libyan fixer, Mohamed Essul, outside the interior ministry in Tripoli on 29 May while they were trying to cover a protest by militiamen demanding higher wages and criticizing Mohamed Sheikh’s appointment as interior minister.
The two journalists were taken to the Al-Sad katiba (brigade), which claims to be responsible for the security of diplomatic missions. There they were interrogated at length about their activities and were promised an interview with the interior minister.
After several hours, they were taken to another katiba in the Tripoli district of Fernaj, where they were again questioned at length about their work. They were finally released after a total of six hours without being given any explanation or an interview with the minister.
Other cases of arbitrary arrest and detention, attacks and grave threats against journalists by militiamen have also been reported, above all in Benghazi and Tripoli, but also other cities.
Reporters Without Borders is aware that the new Libyan state is undergoing a difficult transition but it reminds the authorities of Libya’s international and national obligations as regards freedom of information, expression and opinion, and urges them to protect all journalists working in Libya.
The development of free, independent, pluralist and transparent media is essential for the creation of democratic state in Libya.