Libya: ARTICLE 19 condemns the kidnapping of a journalist in Benghazi

ARTICLE 19 condemns the kidnapping of Siraj Abdel Hafeez Al-Maqsabi, a journalist of the Libyan Al-Hayat newspaper, which is affiliated with the branch of the General Press Authority in Benghazi and holds the Libyan authorities responsible for protecting his life and physical integrity, especially in light of the frequency of cases of kidnapping of journalists in Libya in recent months.[1]

The incident consists on a raid by an armed group in Benghazi of the headquarters of the newspaper where Siraj works on 22 November 2021 and arresting the journalist and taking him to an unknown destination without providing any judicial permission or any legal document explaining the background of the arrest.

We call on the Libyan government to fulfill the promises it made on 3 May 2021 through Government Circular No. 8 on the protection of press freedom in which it has committed itself to prevent harassment of journalists because of their work and to prosecute anyone who arrests, assaults or detains them inside security offices.

ARTICLE 19 considers that the government’s silence regarding these serious attacks is considered as complicity with the aggressors and a violation of international standards that call on states to; “Take effective action to prevent attacks on journalists and others in retaliation for exercising their right to freedom of expression, including where this involves political speech, to provide protection to those who are at risk of such attacks, to investigate such attacks when they do occur and to prosecute those responsible, so as to end the culture of impunity for such attacks.”[2]

On the other hand, we warn of the danger of these practices to the political climate that precedes the presidential elections scheduled for 24 December 2021, which will occur in light of repeated attacks on journalists and political domination of the media outlets, which would threaten the integrity of the electoral process.

Therefore, ARTICLE 19 calls on the Libyan authorities not to remain silent about attacks on journalists and to ensure that the perpetrators do not go unpunished.

[1] For example, the journalist Ziad Al-Werfelli was arrested on the occasion of his journalistic work in February 2021, as well as the journalist Saddam Al-Saket earlier this month.

[2] 2021 Joint declaration on politicians and public officials and freedom of expression, The United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Protection and Promotion of Freedom of Opinion and Expression, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media, the Organization of American States (OAS) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information: