Restrictions and intimidation of journalists in Libya

Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Reuters: Protesters around the world, including those pictured to the left from Turkey, have been showing their support of the Libyan anti-government protest.
Background: The Situation in Libya Shortly after 18 days of protests in Egypt successfully brought the resignation of former Prime Minister Hosni Mubarak, Libyans began peaceful protests of their own on February 14, 2011. Fuelled by high unemployment and dissatisfaction with Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi’s government, protestors began calling for Gaddafi’s removal from power. The situation escalated into violence as security forces fired at unarmed protestors in cities including Tripoli, Benghazi and al-Baida. Anti-government groups have reportedly gained control of Libya’s second largest city, Benghazi, as Gaddafi’s government faces a growing crisis as its officials and ambassadors denouncing the violence of the regime. Witnesses have reported that security forces were firing indiscriminately on the streets and clashes have led to over 200 deaths as of February 23. Since the beginning of the protest, members of the foreign media have been denied access to Libya, making the verification of reports difficult and coverage of the anti-government protests inadequate. CNN Correspondent Ben Wedeman was the first and, as of February 22, the only television correspondent of the Western media to have entered, and be reporting from, Libya. As borders have now been largely abandoned by the Libyan government, movement of foreign media into the country has been increasing. Local journalists have faced movement restrictions within the country, particularly into areas considered strongholds of the protestors. Members of the local media have been detained by the Internal Security Agency as they attempt to report on the anti-government demonstrations and disseminate information to the public. CJFE is extremely concerned by the restricted movement of foreign media into Libya and the harassment and detainment of Libyan journalists by their government. The ability of media to report on and access news of events in Libya has been severely limited, and acts of intimidation and restriction of information include: • Detention by the Internal Security Agency of members of the Libyan media (including writer/blogger Mohamed Ashim, director Taqi al-Din al-Shalawi and editor-in-chief Abdel Fattah Bourwaq). • A statement by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s son (and heir apparent) Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, saying that foreign media had inflated the scale of the uprising, and that the Libyan army would “eradicate” enemies of the state. • Targeting of news network Al Jazeera including the jamming of its radio broadcast, forbidding local television stations from offering Al Jazeera, and blocking of its website. Social media websites Twitter and Facebook were also blocked in Libya. • Denial of entry into Libya for foreign media since the protests began. Prior to border officials leaving their posts, only one Western television correspondent had entered the country. • Restriction of the flow of information internally and externally by cutting internet service across the country on February 19, and sporadic access to mobile telephone networks. Read CJFE’s alert to Prime Minister Stephen Harper For statements made by the Canadian Government, visit CBC's website Read reports by IFEX member organizations: IPI, CPJ and RSF Follow CNN Correspondent Ben Wedeman through the CNN website or on Twitter Sign Avaaz's petition to the United Nations Security Council and the European Union Find out what Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are saying about Libya

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