In a post on social media on 27 February, Al Wassat media group chairman Mahmud Shammam reported that the radio station’s transmitter in Tobruk had just been seized by security forces attached to the army that controls eastern Libya.
The same day, Al Wassat’s headquarters in Benghazi was suddenly raided and closed and material was confiscated. The only reason given for its closure was the claim that its signal was interfering with the local government’s broadcasts.
It was the militia in charge of protecting Gharyan’s local radio station that demanded its closure on 23 February without giving any plausible reason. It has not broadcast since then. Attempts to resolve tension between the militia and Gharyan’s local authorities, so that the station can resume broadcasting, have so far been unsuccessful.
“The situation in Libya is extremely worrying and we request the immediate reopening of these radio stations,” RSF editor in chief Virginie Dangles said. “Regardless of the criticisms that can be levelled against them, their closure was sudden, disproportionate and arbitrary, and will only help to block the problematic transition that Libya has been experiencing since 2011.”
Several cases of journalists being the targets of abduction or violence have also been reported to RSF in the western city of Tripoli but the victims are terrified of the many militias operating in the city and have asked not to be identified.
The conflict between the rival governments in the east and west of the country since the start of 2016 has resulted in a climate of complete impunity for crimes of violence and abuses against journalists and media outlets, which makes it very dangerous for them to operate.
Libya is ranked 164th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.