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7 things to do in 7 months:
A human rights roadmap to elections

1: Guarantee everyone’s freedom of expression and promote free media

Current Progress:

Failed
Failed

Repealing all regulations and decrees that provide disproportionate and illegitimate restrictions on freedom of expressions and the press

Failed

Ensuring that attacks and threats against those who speak out publicly are investigates and those responsible are held accountable

  • On 3 August, the GNU proposed to Libya’s House of Representatives a budget which allocates funds to militias, more specifically 2.5 billion LYD (550 million USD) to the LAAF, 146 million LYD (32 million USD) to Radaa, 40 million LYD (8.9 million USD) to the Stability Support Agency, 35 million LYD (7.8 million USD) to the Public Security Agency, and 260 LYD (57 million USD) to the Internal Security Agency (ISA). The ISA is an entity made of armed groups operating in eastern Libya who are implicated in gross human rights abuses (including enforced disappearance and torture) to silence critics and opponents. Through wanting to allocate funds to perpetrators of international crimes and incorporate them into state institutions, the GNU legitimises those who attack and threaten those who speak out publicly. Rather than trying to secure support from militias by funding them, the GNU should investigate human rights abuses, hold responsible members of militias accountable, and implement vetting processes based on human rights when integrating armed actors into state institutions.
Failed

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.

  • Whilst the GNU communicates on part of its activities on social media (Facebook, Twitter), it fails to brief the media on the progress it makes.

Past progress:

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.