Reporters Without Borders condemns in the strongest terms newspaper editor Muftah Bu Zeid’s murder today in Benghazi. Gunmen in a car shot Zeid three times in the head and abdomen shortly after he got out of his own car in Istiqlal Street (former Gamal Abdel Nasser Street) in the city centre at around 10:30 am.
The 59-year-old editor of the popular state-owned weekly Burniq, for which he had worked for several years, was widely respected in Benghazi for his bold and firm criticism of the extremist groups operating in eastern Libya.
Zeid had appeared on the privately-owned satellite TV station Libya Al-Ahrar yesterday to discuss the latest events in Libya and the increasingly worrying political and security situation.
A few days ago, he told the newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi he had recently received a direct threat in which he was told his life would be in danger if he did not leave Libya within 24 hours .
The situation of journalists in Libya has deteriorated steadily ever since the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime in 2011, ending more than 40 years of dictatorship during which the media were completely gagged.
Libya Al-Ahrar’s Benghazi head of programs Khadiha El-Emaime told Reporters Without Borders: “As journalists and news providers, we all face the same permanent dangers in Benghazi , we all keep receiving threats in connection with our work and we can all be killed at any time.”
Reporters Without Borders urges the Libyan authorities to conduct an investigation as quickly as possible to establish the motives for Zeid’s murder and to identify those responsible, who must be brought to justice.
“We remind the government that guaranteeing the safety of journalists is crucial in the new Libyan state and that they will not be able to work freely if this is not done”, said Reporters Without Borders research director Lucie Morillon. “And, given the current climate of violence against journalists, it seems clear that those investigating Zeid’s murder should not rule out a connection with his work.”
Morillon added: “Legislative and judicial measures must be urgently taken to end impunity and uphold the rule of law while ensuring that freedom of expression and information are protected and respected, as this is an essential condition for establishing a viable democratic society for the long term in Libya.”