Panafrican News Agency

Libyan NGOs urge authorities to do more to protect press freedom

Tripoli, Libya (PANA) - Twenty-one Libyan human rights organisations have urged the Libyan authorities to take more measures to protect press freedom and provide the media with an enabling environment in which they can work freely without discrimination or fear of reprisals or arbitrary punishment.

Libya has been ranked 143rd in the World Press Freedom index for 2022 by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), moving up 22 places from 165th in 2021, indicating an improvement in the insecure country.

In a joint statement issued on Tuesday on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, Libyan NGOs reported that the number of violations documented by the Libyan Independent Media Organization from May 2021 to May 2022 amounted to 14, including 10 attacks on journalists in five Libyan cities.

These ranged from enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and physical attacks. The Monitoring reports that the city of Sirte topped the list of violations with 40 per cent, followed by Tripoli and Benghazi with 20 per cent, and Sorman and Ajdabiya with 10 per cent each.

Human rights organizations said that women journalists in Libya were still the target of attacks, accounting for 10pc of total violations against journalists.

In their statement, the organizations stressed that the continued attacks on journalists, in addition to the restrictions on the freedom to exercise journalistic work, which had been included in a number of administrative decisions and procedures, were of great concern.

The document states that successive legislative authorities after the 17 February 2011 revolution have not enacted any new laws regulating the media sector.

Additionally, they have not repealed the publications law that restricts media freedom, urging that the executive authorities take measures, according to their own judgement, without any legislation, in terms of licensing public or private media or correspondents.

The Libyan organizations say the current situation means that there is a danger to the media, starting with a downward spiral of incitement to hatred and violence, and a lack of respect for professional ethics, followed by the risk of arresting journalists for simply criticizing the authorities.

Therefore, the organizations believe that the persistence of this situation will lead to the enactment of a new legislation that is excessively restrictive of press freedom and requires action.

They also called on the Libyan authorities to criminalize pre-trial detention for all publishing and broadcasting crimes committed by various media outlets, regardless of the status or profession of the perpetrator, and not to arrest or summon any journalist because of his or her work, except after obtaining the permission of the Prosecutor General.

The statement stressed the need for the authorities to respect the guarantees stipulated in the Constitutional Declaration, a sort of mini-constitution governing the relationship between the powers that be adopted in 2011 in the country, in addition to Libya's international obligations.

The legislative authorities have been called upon to enact a new law to regulate the media sector in Libya, which includes legal guarantees ensuring the independence and pluralism of the media and their editorial policies, in accordance with a code of ethics that combats disinformation and hate speech.

The Libyan organizations called for a review of laws restricting press freedom, such as the Anti-Terrorism Law No. 3 of 2014 and Law No. 4 of 2017, amending some provisions of the Military Penal Code, the Military Criminal Procedure Code, the Anti-Cybercrime Law of 2021 and other laws that pose a real threat to the establishment of a free, pluralistic and independent media landscape and its amendment, in accordance with the Constitutional Declaration and international conventions.

They also stressed that any restriction of press freedom should only be allowed in full compliance with the principles of international law relating to the legality and purpose of the restriction measure, as well as the principle of proportionality of the restriction measure to the objective sought.

The organizations urged the Libyan authorities to conduct prompt and serious investigations to find practical and effective mechanisms that decisively end impunity for crimes against journalists in Libya, in particular the killing of journalists, and incitement and hate campaigns against journalists.

The Libyan NGOs again called on the Libyan authorities and the international community to work to ensure that the perpetrators of crimes against journalists are held accountable.

It should be noted that Libya has been in the grip of security chaos for more than a decade after the 17 February 2011 revolution, in the wake of the collapse of state institutions and security and military bodies, making the environment hostile for media professionals.

-0- PANA BY/JSG/BBA/RA 4May2022