Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Despite hopes for reform raised in 2004 by the restoration of Libya's diplomatic relations with the United States and by leader Colonel Muammar Qaddafi's promises to improve human rights conditions, Libya remained one of the world's most closed and repressive societies. Freedom of speech is nonexistent in a system in which nearly all independent political activity is illegal and citizens are permitted to express their opinions on sanctioned topics only through state-controlled "basic people's congresses." The penal code stipulates life imprisonment or the death penalty for those convicted of disseminating information that conflicts with the principles of the constitution or the country's "fundamental social structures" or that tarnishes Libya's image abroad. The judiciary is not independent.
All print and broadcast media are government owned, and the expression of opinions contrary to official policy is illegal. The pervasive use of secret police, informants, and arbitrary arrests intimidates citizens from speaking out. Foreign publications are often censored, although Internet access and satellite television, available to a relatively small but growing number of citizens, are reportedly not routinely blocked. In February 2004, the Libyan government allowed Amnesty International to visit the country for the first time since 1988, but a series of disturbing developments during the year illustrated the extreme nature of its intolerance of free expression. In January, the state-run daily newspaper Al Zahf Al Akhdar was shut down for a week for suggesting that Qaddafi should now "build the state and truly become president." In March, peaceful dissident Fathi Al Jahmi, arrested in 2002 after calling for political reforms, was released, only to be beaten and arrested, along with his wife and son, two weeks later after criticizing Qaddafi on two pan-Arab satellite television programs. At year's end, Al Jahmi remained incommunicado, in detention at an undisclosed location. In July, Abu Al Qassem Samidah, former president of the Libyan Press Institute and editor in chief of several Libyan newspapers, was fired for appearing on a talk show on Abu Dhabi TV on which another guest criticized Qaddafi.