News24

Libya threat to freedom concerns watchdog

2012-10-01 22:19

Tripoli - media rights watchdog said on Monday it is concerned freedom of information is under threat in Libya due to visa refusals for foreign journalists, bans on films and arbitrary arrests.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said it was "very worried by the signs of a decline in respect for freedom of information... since the election of the General National Congress on 7 July".

RSF cited reports of foreign journalists who have had difficulties getting visas to visit Libya after the "11 September attack on the US consulate in Benghazi" that killed four American officials.

The watchdog also charged that the Supreme Security Committee (SSC), a force created by the interior ministry after an uprising toppled dictator Muammar Gaddafi last year, has "arrested journalists arbitrarily."

It gave the example of British film maker and journalist Sharron Ward and her Libyan interpreter who were detained while filming at a camp for internally displaced people. Ward's equipment was confiscated and she was deported.

"Foreign and national journalists must be able to work freely in post-Gaddafi Libya," RSF said in a statement.

"Abuse of power should be a thing of the past. It is true the country is in full transition but the Supreme Security Committee’s high-handed behaviour is disturbing.

"We call on the new government, above all the interior ministry, to investigate these incidents and to return the equipment that was arbitrarily confiscated from these journalists," said the watchdog.

It said the SCC had also detained Nabil Shebani, managing director of private channel Al-Assema TV, for questioning for 10 hours on 25 August over his network's coverage of the destruction of Al-Shaab mosque in Tripoli.

"SSC personnel tried to prevent journalists from covering the demolition of the Al-Shaab mosque and behaved very aggressively towards journalists who tried to approach the site," the group reported.