Ali al-Rifawi, a reporter for 218 TV, was arrested on March 26, 2022, by armed officers from the Internal Security Agency. As of April 21, his whereabouts are unknown. (Screenshot: Youtube/218TV)

Libyan journalist Ali al-Rifawi detained since March after reporting on corruption

New York, April 21, 2022 – Libyan authorities must immediately release journalist Ali al-Rifawi, disclose his location, and ensure that journalists can cover local events without fear of detention, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.

On March 26, armed officers from the Internal Security Agency, a coalition of armed groups led by the Libyan Arab Armed Forces, stopped al-Rifawi, a reporter for local independent news channel 218 TV, while he was driving in Sirte city and arrested him, according to news reports, a statement by 218 TV, and Ali Alaspli, the director of local rights group Libyan Crime Watch, who is following the case and spoke with CPJ via messaging app.   

As of Thursday, April 21, al-Rifawi is believed to be detained in an unknown location, Alaspli told CPJ, adding that no official charges have been filed against him and al-Rifawi has not yet appeared before a state prosecutor.

“The Libyan Arab Armed Forces’ arrest of journalist Ali al-Rifawi and refusal to disclose his current location for almost a month shows the extent to which authorities are willing to go to muzzle journalists covering local events,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “Authorities must immediately and unconditionally release al-Rifawi and refrain from arresting journalists who are just doing their jobs.”

Al-Rifawi’s arrest comes after Mokhtar al-Madani, the mayor of Sirte, filed a complaint accusing the journalist of influencing public opinion, citing his coverage of corruption issues in Sirte, according to Alaspli.

Al-Rifawi covers corruption and human rights issues, most recently a March 19 protest, where families demanded compensation for those who died during a NATO-led military intervention in 2011, according to news reports.

CPJ was unable to confirm further details about the complaint, including when it was filed and the type of complaint. Local rights groups the Institution of National Commission for Human Rights and Amnesty International released statements calling for al-Rifawi’s release on April 12 and on April 19 respectively.

CPJ emailed the Internal Security Agency, 218 TV Channel, and the Municipality of Sirte for comment but did not receive any replies.

[Editors’ Note: The reason for al-Rifawi’s arrest has been corrected in the title and fifth paragraph. The sixth paragraph was updated to include the topics that al-Rifawi covers.]