What is the problem?
Freedom of expression and freedom of the press are under attack in Libya. Over the past ten years, Libyan authorities in the east and the west have undermined freedom of press by restricting and criminalising forms of legitimate expression. To do so, they have relied on Gaddafi-era legislation, such as Law 76 of 1972 on Publications, and adopted regulations such as Decree 597 of 2020 which established the Libyan Media Foundation, a body offered sweeping powers to oversee the media. On repeated occasions, the Government of NationalAccord (GNA), including the International Media Department of its Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and GNA-affiliated militias, have prevented local media professionals from working with international outlets and blocked international journalists from covering incidents in Tripoli, confiscating their equipment.
Additionally, militias and armed groups have actively targeted media professionals for conducting their work, in a climate of impunity. Since 2014, journalists and dissenting voices, have increasingly faced murder, abduction, arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance, torture in detention and threats by armed groups associated with successive Libyan governments. In particular, female journalists continue to be subjected to smear campaigns, including online, as well as physical attacks and confiscation of equipment. This has led many women to leave the profession as a result of the intimidations and harassment they routinely face for carrying out their work.
What you must do about it
The freedom to inform and the freedom to express diverging views and political opinions are fundamental rights, and are key in the lead up to elections to ensure political debate.
Under the Roadmap, you are required to “complete the administrative, financial and security procedures necessary for the success of the elections through confidence-building measures, including rehabilitation and regulating of the media sector” (article 6.1). You must guarantee freedom of expression by creating an environment in which journalists, writers and activists can speak freely, without discrimination, fear of retribution, or arbitrary punishment by:
- Repealing all regulations and decrees that provide disproportionate and illegitimate restrictions on freedom of expression and the press;
- Ensuring that attacks and threats against those who speak out publicly are investigated and those responsible are held accountable;
- Ensuring the media have access to politicians, including through briefings to the media on the progress made, and are able to comment on public issues without censorship or restraint and to inform public opinion.