Reporters Without Borders welcomes last night’s report on state television that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has given instructions for the release of all the journalists held in a wave of arrests since 3 November (http://en.rsf.org/libye-wave-of-arrests-of-journalists-who-08-11-2010,38776.html).
Issued on the eve of a periodic review of Libya’s record by the United Nations Human Rights Council, the orders for their release unfortunately reflect Col. Gaddafi’s desire to stay in power while normalising political relations with Libya’s economic partners rather than any consideration for freedom of expression.
Reporters Without Borders hopes that the announcement is quickly followed by the release of all the detained journalists.
Blow against freedom of expression
Wave of arrests of journalists who urged return of opposition figures
Reporters Without Borders today strongly condemned a wave of arrests by Libya’s secret services of around 30 journalists that began on 5 November 2010.
The roundup followed the publication of an editorial in the daily Oea and the news agency Libyan Press calling for opponents and former comrades-in-arms of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in the 1969 revolution living in exile abroad, to return to the country and take an active role in politics.
The worldwide press freedom organisation condemned the arrests and called for the immediate release of the journalists, saying that it was the reaction of a draconian state, deaf to the need for protecting human rights and democratic freedoms. It demonstrated that the regime was determined to be intractable in relation to freedom of expression.
The two media belong to the media foundation al-Ghad, owned by Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of Colonel Gaddafi. The director of the foundation, Mr Dogha, who lives in London, was warned that he would be arrested if he returned to the country.
Oea was banned from appearing on 3 November 2010, when the people’s public committee (the government) ordered the national printers to shelve printing the weekly.
Websites Libya al-Yom and the Libyan League for Human Rights run by opponents of the regime living abroad, were shut down on the same day. Another website, al-Manara Lili’lem was hacked into and made inaccessible, on 4 November 2010. It is now up and running again and covering current news event.
Around ten journalists were arrested in the capital, Tripoli, overnight on 5-6 November. Fresh arrests continued elsewhere in the country in the following days. To date, around 28 journalists are being detained at al-Sika prison in the capital. Among them are an Egyptian and a Tunisian journalist, both women.
The arrests have taken place against a background of rising tension in Libya between reformers and conservatives. Top ranking members of the Revolutionary Council recently called for violence against supporters of what they called “a reformist tsunami in the country”.
The UN Human Rights Council is tomorrow due to carry out its Universal Periodic Review of Libya.
Reporters Without Borders has contributed to this review by releasing its own assessment of the state of press freedom in Libya (see: http://en.rsf.org/libye-reporters-without-borders-08-11-2010,38768.html).
Libya is ranked 160th out of 178 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ press freedom index for 2010.