October 3, 2016 - Updated on October 4, 2016

RSF reiterates call for protective mechanism after Dutch journalist killed in Libya

Dutch journalist Jeroen Oerlemans’ death at the hands of an Islamic State sniper in Syrte yesterday, just three months after Libyan photojournalist Abdelkader Fassouk was killed in Benghazi, has again underlined the urgent need for more protection for journalists.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reiterates its call for the creation of the position of special representative of the United Nations secretary-general for the safety of journalists, so that this crime does not go unpunished, as so many others have.

Another journalist has been fatally shot in Libya for the sake of the right to information,” said Yasmine Kacha, the head of RSF’s North Africa desk.

Given the extremely complex political and security situation in this country, his murder – like the nine other murders of journalists in Libya since 2011 ­– will very probably remain unpunished. The existence of an alert mechanism within the UN Security Council, such as the one proposed by RSF, could make a difference.”

Witnesses said that, although wearing a bulletproof vest, Oerlemans was hit in chest by a sniper’s bullet that entered through the side of his body and lodged beside his heart.

Joanie de Rijke, a Dutch journalist who was working with Oerlemans in Libya, told RSF: “I am horrified by the news. Jeroen was an extraordinary man. We had worked together for several years and his professionalism never wavered. This is a great loss for the entire profession.”

De Rijke is currently in Tripoli waiting for his body to be repatriated.

Oerlemans had covered most of the wars in the Middle East during the past ten years. He and British war reporter John Cantlie were abducted together by jihadists in northern Syria on 19 July 2012 and were freed eight days later by the Free Syrian Army. Cantlie was subsequently kidnapped again.

Many journalists and NGOs joined RSF in June in calling for the creation of the post of special representative of the UN Nations secretary-general for the safety of journalists. The goal is to establish a concrete mechanism that enforces international law and thereby finally reduces the number of journalists killed every year in connection with their work.

Libya is ranked 164th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.