New York April 23, 2015–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the murder of a Libyan television journalist in the eastern city of Benghazi on Wednesday. Muftah al-Qatrani, 33, was shot dead in his office at Al-Anwar, the privately owned television production company he was director of, according to news reports. He had been covering the fighting between Islamist militias and pro-government groups in the city, according to reports.
“The murder of Muftah al-Qatrani comes amid repeated attacks and threats against journalists working in Libya,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “The ongoing conflict must not be held up as an excuse for such a crime to take place with impunity. We call on authorities to thoroughly investigate and ensure the journalist’s killers are brought to justice.”
No group has publicly claimed responsibility for al-Qatrani’s killing, according to local news reports. The local press freedom group Libyan Center for Freedom of the Press said in a press release on Thursday that it believes the journalist’s killing was linked to his work producing news reports about the fighting in the eastern city of Benghazi for several satellite television channels.
Al-Qatrani’s body was found in his office, with gunshot wounds to his head, by friends on Wednesday evening, local news reports said. An unnamed official in the Libyan Ministry of Interior said al-Qatrani’s body has been sent to the forensic medical examiner, according to reports. The ministry added that an investigation has been started.
Libya has suffered from widespread fighting and instability since the ouster of Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, with an estimated 1,700 armed groups active in the country, according to the Global Conflict Tracker of the Council on Foreign Relations, an independent think-tank. The internationally recognized government based in the city of Bayda, about 125 miles from Benghazi, has struggled to instill order and rebuild state institutions. A rival government was declared in the capital, Tripoli, after it was captured by a faction known as Libya Dawn last August.
In its 2014 special report on impunity in journalists’ murders, “The Road to Justice,” CPJ found that conflict, including sectarian strife, political insurgencies, or regular combat, is the backdrop to some of the most entrenched climates of impunity. Even amid the danger of crossfire and terrorist acts, targeted murder is the No. 1 reason journalists are killed, CPJ found.
Periods of intense fighting between groups loyal to both governments and Islamist militias have taken place in Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city, in the past year. It has been called the most dangerous place for journalists in Libya by the Libyan Center for Freedom of the Press.