A journalist with Libya Panorama Channel (LPC), Ben Zabia was on his way to attend a relative’s funeral in the eastern city of Derna, his hometown, when he was arrested at the Ras Lahlel checkpoint on 14 January by members of the army that controls the eastern part of the country led by Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar.
A pro-Haftar TV station posted a video of his arrest shortly afterwards on social networks. It shows a man in civilian dress interrogating Ben Zabia in a repetitive manner about his social and family “links” with supposed terrorists, but without presenting any clear and legally-based accusation against him.
It was later said that Ben Zabia would be freed last weekend but his release did not take place.
“The forces led by Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar have yet again targeted a journalist,” RSF editor-in-chief Virginie Dangles said. “We call for Wiem Ben Zabia’s immediate and unconditional release. Our sources say he was transferred at the weekend to Gernada military prison in the eastern city of El Baydah, where conditions are harsh and detainees are often tortured.”
Libya continues to be extremely dangerous for journalists, who are increasingly harassed since the deterioration of the security situation in 2014. Three journalists – two Libyans and a Dutch citizen – were killed in Libya last year and more than ten were detained arbitrarily.
Last September RSF and the Libyan Centre for Freedom of Press (LCFP) jointly distributed 100 “Press” vests and 100 copies of RSF’s Safety Guide for Journalists, which is available online here.
Libya is ranked 164th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.