Washington, D.C., December 17, 2019 — Libyan authorities should immediately account for the whereabouts of journalist and press freedom advocate Rida Fahil al-Bom and do their utmost to secure his release, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On December 14, security forces affiliated with the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord detained al-Bom near Tripoli’s Mitiga International Airport, according to news reports. Al-Bom is a freelance investigative journalist and founder of the Libyan Organization for Independent Media, a local press freedom group, according to those reports.
Yesterday, the Libyan Ministry of Interior issued a statement, posted to Facebook, denying that al-Bom was in the ministry’s custody, and saying that he was abducted by a government-affiliated intelligence organization.
No charges against al-Bom have been made public, Karim Salem, a Libya researcher at the regional human rights group Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, told CPJ via phone after talking to the journalist’s lawyers.
“Libyan authorities must immediately secure the release of Rida Fahil al-Bom and publicly commit to allowing journalists to work freely without fearing for their safety,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “The Libyan Government of National Accord must do its utmost to protect journalists from harm, whether from terrorist groups or rogue branches of the government.”
Al-Bom was detained after he returned to Libya from Tunisia, where he had participated in a press freedom workshop, according to a close friend who spoke to CPJ on condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal. Al-Bom passed through customs and was detained once he left the airport, the friend said.
Al-Bom won widespread recognition for his 2016 reporting on human rights and LGBT issues in Libya, according to news reports. In 2018, he founded the Libyan Organization for Independent Media, which has called for amending the county’s publication laws, and proposed a press code of conduct, according to the group’s website.
CPJ contacted Libya’s Presidential Council, whose chairperson oversees the government’s intelligence agencies, for comment via the group’s official Facebook page, but did not immediately receive any response.
Yesterday, the U.N. Support Mission in Libya issued a statement calling for al-Bon’s release. Today, the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights issued a statement on Twitter calling for his unconditional release.