A security officer is seen in Sirte, Libya, on August 17, 2020. Security forces recently detained radio journalist Sami al-Sharif in Tripoli. (Reuters/Esam Omran Al-Fetori)

Libyan radio journalist Sami al-Sharif detained while covering protests

Washington D.C., August 27, 2020 – Libyan authorities should immediately release journalist Sami al-Sharif and ensure that the press can cover protests without fear of attack or harassment from demonstrators or security forces, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On August 23, men in military uniforms affiliated with the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord detained al-Sharif, the director of local broadcaster Al-Jawhara Radio, while he was covering anti-government demonstrations in Tripoli, the capital, according to a report by his employer, news reports, and a statement from the Libya Center for Freedom of Press, a local press freedom group.

The Government of National Accord has not acknowledged al-Sharif’s arrest or disclosed any reason for his detention, according to the Libya Center for Freedom of Press. CPJ emailed the government’s Ministry of Interior for comment, but did not immediately receive any response.

“Libyan authorities must immediately disclose whether they are holding journalist Sami al-Sharif and, if so, release him unconditionally,” 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, and ensure that government groups are not harassing, abducting, or obstructing the press.”

According to a statement by Al-Jawhara Radio on Facebook, eyewitnesses saw members of the Special Operations Force of the Nawasi Battalion, a group affiliated with the Government of National Accord, arrest al-Sharif and take him to Bu Laila, a military compound that also houses detainees.

Protests over corruption and poor living conditions have escalated in recent days, and demonstrators have been wounded and abducted during the protests, according to Reuters.