New York, March 6, 2017–Libyan authorities in Tobruk should immediately allow privately-owned Al-Wasat radio to resume broadcasting and should allow all news media to operate freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Security forces on February 27 seized the radio station’s transmitter and sealed its office, Mahmud Shammam, chairman of Al-Wasat’s board, wrote in a statement published to Facebook the same day.
Shammam told CPJ that news media aligned with the government in Tobruk had recently been consistently critical of the station’s coverage. Libya is currently divided between two rival governments, one based in the western city of Tripoli and one in the eastern city of Tobruk.
Mohammad al-Najm, executive director of the Libyan Center for Freedom of the Press, an advocacy group, told CPJ that authorities in Tobruk gave “signal interference” as the official reason for the station’s closure, a reason he described as “illogical and unlawful.”
“If Libyan authorities in Tobruk see compelling technical, rather than editorial, problems with Al-Wasat Radio’s broadcasts, they should make every effort to resolve these in cooperation with the radio station,” CPJ Deputy Executive Director Rob Mahoney said. “Sending in security forces to raid and seal Al-Wasat radio’s office gives the appearance of censorship.”
Authorities in both regions of Libya have arrested journalists, according to CPJ research. Continued fighting in the country continues to pose severe risk of abduction, injury, or death to journalists covering the conflict.