Libya: journalist abducted, tortured and murdered

Expression

On 31st July 2018, unidentified assailants kidnapped and killed a journalist in Sabha, southwestern Libya. Prior to being abducted, Musa Abdul Kareem, a journalist working for the news outlet Fasanea, had published an article focusing on increasing insecurity and violence in Libya. The Libyan Center for Freedom of the Press (LCFP), a NGO focusing on media freedom, confirmed that the body of Abdul Kareem, was found near Sabha city centre with his hands bound behind his back. A medical report filed after an examination of the 24 year old's body confirmed that Kareem had been tortured prior to being shot thirteen times. According to sources at the news outlet, Kareem and his colleagues had reported being regularly threatened while working in Sabha. The city has witnessed increased instability due to clashes between armed groups loyal to the Libyan National Army based in eastern Libya and local armed groups loyal to the U.N. recognised government in Tripoli. Amid the instability and violence, at least twelve journalists have been killed since 2011.

On the same date, the LCFP also reported the arbitrary detention and later release of four journalists working for international outlets Reuters and Agence-France Presse. The four journalists were covering illegal immigration issues in Abu Sitta Naval Base in Tripoli. Despite having the appropriate passes to work in the area, the journalists were detained by security personnel at the base. While later offering an apology, the Libyan authorities failed to offer any justification for detaining the journalists. 

Restrictions on foreign journalists has been a key issue in Libya of late. On 10th July 2018, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) drew attention to the increasingly complex regulations for international media worker's visas. Imposed in 2016, the rules have made the process more expensive and time consuming. Similarly, once journalists gain their visas, every interview or initiative needs to be approved by Libyan authorities prior to completion, leading to a situation where journalists have little or no journalistic autonomy. RSF notes that these measures have impeded the quality of investigative journalism in Libya at a critical moment in the nation's history. In a statement, the group said: 

"The Sarraj government will not succeed in giving Libya a positive image by harassing foreign journalists and media...With just months to go to general elections, the government needs to give significant evidence of support for the freedom to inform, so that a democratic debate can take place. To this end, journalists and media must be able to fully play their role.”

International journalists played a vital in exposing the 2017 scandal which documented West African migrants being sold as slaves in Libya. Given that the country is an important exit point for migrants attempting to get to Europe, the country's instability left migrants particularly vulnerable to exploitation. International groups claim that since the scandal was unearthed in 2017, there has been an increase in hostility to international media workers in Libya.