Tunisian journalists Sofiene Chourabi and Nadhir Guetari, who worked for the privately owned Tunisian satellite channel First TV, were kidnapped twice while reporting in eastern Libya in September 2014, according to news reports.
On September 3, 2014, Chourabi and Guetari were kidnapped by a militia in Brega that some news reports said was affiliated with the government. They were released four days later. On September 8, 2014 they were taken again by a militia near Ajdabiya, according to news reports.
In a statement posted on jihadist websites on January 8, 2015, a group affiliated with Islamic State claimed to have killed the two Tunisians. The claim was not confirmed by either the Libyan or Tunisian governments, according to news reports.
On April 28, 2015, a spokesman for Libya’s Tobruk-based government announced that the journalists had been killed by Islamic State militants. The spokesman said five militants who were under arrest confessed to kidnapping and murdering the journalists. News reports said that a group called Shabab al-Tawhid (Youth for Unity) posted an audio recording on Twitter of what it said was a Tunisian militant affiliated with Islamic State in Libya confirming that the journalists had been shot dead.
The Tunisian government, which sent investigators to Libya to look into the case in early 2015, maintains that the journalists are alive. Tunisia’s foreign minister, Tayeb Baccouche, told reporters in November 2015 that the government had evidence that both journalists were still alive but did not disclose further details.
Guetari’s father, Sami, also told reporters in August 2015 that he believes his son is alive. He said the family has been in negotiations with kidnappers, but did not give further details. In October 2017, Sami Guetari told journalists that a group of pro-bono lawyers are planning to file a lawsuit on behalf of the two journalists in front of the International Criminal Court.
Guetari’s mother, Sonia Rejeb, told reporters on several occasions in 2017 that she believes the Libyan military has been holding the journalists. In September, Rejeb said that Slim Chiboub, a Tunisian businessman and the son-in-law of the former President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, promised to arrange a meeting between her and Field Marshal Khalifa Belqasim Haftar, the head of the armed forces of the internationally recognized government in Eastern Libya, to discuss the missing journalists, according to news reports. No date had been set for the meeting in late 2017, according to the reports.
On September 28, 2017, a spokesperson from the United Nations-backed Libyan Government of National Accord Prosecutor General’s office said that Islamic State militants who were under arrest gave the authorities further information about the journalists’ kidnapping, according to news reports. The spokesperson declined to provide details until the investigation is over, according to the same reports.
The Libyan Government of National Accord did not respond to CPJ’s email requesting information or comment.