Various armed groups in Libya have violently attacked, kidnapped, intimidated, threatened, and killed Libyan journalists with impunity over the past two years, causing many to flee the country or impose self-censorship, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report released today.
At the same time, courts are prosecuting journalists and others for defaming public officials and other offenses that violate freedom of expression.
The failure by successive governments and interim authorities to protect journalists has wiped out much of the limited media freedom that existed following the 2011 uprising that ousted the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
The 54-page report, “War on the Media: Journalists Under Attack in Libya,” says that authorities failed to hold anyone accountable for attacks on journalists and media outlets since 2012, most of which were committed by non-state actors.
Meanwhile, courts are prosecuting people, including journalists, for speech-related offenses, particularly for defaming public officials. The situation only worsened for journalists when armed conflicts erupted and became endemic in May 2014, hastening the exodus from Libya by journalists fearing for their safety.
Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said:
“The climate of impunity has allowed militias to assault, threaten, kidnap, or even kill journalists because of their reporting or views.
“Government authorities and non-state actors who control territory should urgently condemn attacks on journalists and where possible hold those responsible to account."
(Source: Human Rights Watch)