RSF urges Libya’s new prime minister to protect media freedom

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns yesterday’s (30th of march) armed attack on the headquarters of Nabaa TV in Tripoli, just hours after the new national unity government led by Prime Minister Feyez El Sarraj was installed in the city, and calls on the new authorities to protect the right to information and those who exercise it.

The main aim of the new UN-backed government – which travelled to Tripoli yesterday after long negotiations between rival authorities in Tripoli and the eastern city of Tobruk – is to restore political stability.

But its credibility was immediately threatened by the raid on Nabaa TV, a raid that – according to our sources – was carried out by a brigade allied to militia leader Haytham Al Tajouri. Several journalists were physically attacked and the TV station was completely vandalized.

There can be no justification for an attack of this kind, which means the new government is off to a very poor start,” said Yasmine Kacha, the head of RSF’s North Africa desk. “Peace will not be restored in Libya if media activity is not protected. We urge Feyez El Sarraj to take rapid, concrete measures to combat the impunity enjoyed by those who have targeted the media and journalists in recent months.”

Libyan journalists are often kidnapped by armed militias and subjected to physical violence for covering certain stories. For the most part, they are released with 24 or 48 hours. On this matter, RSF expresses its concern over the disappearance of cyber journalist Ali Al Asballi on the night of the 28th of march, a hundred kilometre away from Benghazi.

Moreover, in regions controlled by Islamic State, reporters are told to say nothing about atrocities against civilians on pain of death if they fail to comply.

The websites of leading media outlets such as Bawabat Al Wassat have been subjected to systematic cyber-attacks in recent months as a way of censoring them. RSF has also received reports of many attacks on radio stations and the jamming of the signals of several TV channels.

RSF issued an updated version of its Safety Guide for Journalists in January that was produced jointly with UNESCO. RSF is currently also lobbying for the creation of the position of special representative of the UN secretary-general for the safety of journalists.

Libya is ranked 154th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2015 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 19.05.2016