Septimius Award organisers abducted in Tripoli and held in detention by GNA

Expression

As previously covered on the CIVICUS Monitor, the conditions for journalists in Libya have attracted international concern in 2018. In a recent example, two media professionals affiliated with Libya's Septimius Award, Suleiman Qashout, a prominent TV anchor and the chairman of the Septimius Award’s board of directors, and Ahmed Yaacoubi, the Septimius Award director, were abducted on 29th April 2018 in Tripoli, Libya. The Septimus Award has been given annually since 2012 to Libyan media professionals, singers and actors, and is supported by the Government of National Accord’s Ministry of Culture and Civil Society.

Following their disappearance, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) issued a statement:

"It is the government’s responsibility to put an end to harassment, arbitrary detention, and intimidation of journalists in the territories under the Government of National Accord (GNA) control. The safety and wellbeing of journalists in the country must be made a priority”.

On 1st May 2018, Libyan authorities of the GNA reported that they had detained the two on charges unrelated to their involvement in the Septimius Awards. International observers noted that on the 30th May 2018, the two journalists' families were summoned to the Mitiga military base in Tripoli, where they were permitted to briefly visit Qashout and Yaacoubi, but were still given no reason as to their detention. The families have had no further communication with the two since the initial visit. One relative has speculated that they had been arrested for organising an event that allowed men and women to mingle, and during which women were permitted to wear clothing deemed immoral by the GNA. 

On 2nd June 2018, information emerged that Qashout had been subjected to torture by Libyan authorities during his detention. There are serious concerns over Qashout's physical and mental well being. Similarly, reports that Qashout has confessed to committing moral crimes assert that such confessions may have been made while under duress. Despite pleas for the journalists' prompt release, no subsequent information about their welfare or whereabouts has been received.