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Libya – Grave security problem

Reporters Without Borders is very disturbed by the complete absence of the rule of law and lack of security in Libya, and by the impact this is having on the work of journalists, and calls on the authorities to ensure that recent serious attacks and kidnappings of media personnel do not go unpunished.

In one of the most recent cases, shots were repeatedly fired at Radio Zawiya, a radio station based in the northwestern city of Zawiya, at around 8 a.m. on 29 September, damaging the office of its manager, Amar Sultan, but causing no injuries.

Taher al-Turki, the editor of Al-Rawasi, a newspaper based in the northwestern city of Zintan, was driving with his wife, daughter and brother from Swani to Zintan on 27 September when gunmen fired at his car, injuring him in the leg, and then kidnapped him. His brother, who sustained gunshot injuries, died after being taken to hospital. The family has received no news of Turki since the kidnapping.

Ahmed Abdel Hakim Al-Mashaoui, a young freelance journalist who works for various local and international media, was arrested in the Tripoli district of Al-Hadba on 23 September by patrolling police, apparently because the military were looking for him. He was taken handcuffed and blindfolded to a detention centre and questioned, and then released the next morning.

Hakim’s arbitrary arrest appears to have been prompted by a telephone interview he gave to the privately-owned satellite TV station Al-Assima the previous evening in which he criticized Prime Minister Ali Zeidan’s government, Libya’s Muslim Brotherhood and the influence of Libya’s armed militia, which he blamed for the lack of security. During the interview, Hakim also talked about the activist Azzedin Louehshi’s abduction by an armed gang a few days before while participating in a demonstration in Tripoli’s Martyrs Square. While detained, Hakim was put under a great deal of pressure to telephone various Libyan TV stations to retract what he had said, but he refused to do this. Since his release, he has been receiving intimidatory messages and death threats.

Mohammed Al-Hashim, a freelance journalist who works for the Shuruq Libya newspaper and the Tadamoun news agency, was abducted at a military checkpoint near Martyrs Square at around 5:30 p.m. on 14 September. After being stopped at the checkpoint for an ID check and identifying himself as a journalist, he was taken to a secret prison and tortured for about 12 hours. Hashim’s interrogators whipped him, gave him electric shocks and burned him with cigarettes in an eventually successful effort to force him to confess that he worked for the Gaddafi regime, something he categorically denies. He was released four days later, on 18 September.

Gunmen ransacked the premises of the Libya Al-Jadida newspaper on the morning of 23 August (a Friday, and therefore a holiday in Libya), stealing equipment including several computers. Its managing editor, Faisal Amar Elhemali, and its editor in chief, Mahmoud Al-Misrati, had received many threats to themselves and their families before the attack.

Reporters Without Borders reminds the new Libya’s authorities that they are subject to national and international obligations to respect freedom of expression and information, and urges them to do whatever is necessary to ensure that journalists are able to work safely.

In particular, they must do everything in their power to stop the abductions, threats and attacks on journalists as quickly as possible, and must bring those responsible for these acts to justice in order to end the impunity and cycle of violence affecting media personnel.

Reporters Without Borders

This article was originally published here.

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