Libya | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Libya

Libya

Freedom of the Press 2006

2006 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

96

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

38

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

29

Moves by the government of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi to improve its diplomatic standing in the world meant little for the country's long beleaguered press. Libyan journalists continue to operate under some of the most restrictive laws in the world and in an extremely repressive climate. Press freedom, like all other public political activity, is illegal, and harsh laws impose life imprisonment and even death sentences on those who dare cross the regime. A public opponent can face a firing squad if he commits vaguely defined violations such as tarnishing Libya's image abroad or disseminating information that opposes the principles of the constitution. In addition to the existence of such laws, Libya's judiciary does not operate independently.

In June 2005, the body of journalist Dayf al-Ghazal al-Shuhaibi-who had been missing for weeks-was found in a Benghazi suburb. The former reporter for the government-owned Azahf al-Akhdar had been shot in the head. After leaving Azahf al-Akhdar, al-Ghazal had published material critical of the authorities on London-based websites dedicated to covering Libya, including Libya Alyoum and Libya Jeel. To date, authorities have yet to find the person or persons responsible for al-Ghazal's murder. Abd al-Raziq al-Mansuri, another journalist who wrote critical articles for a London-based website, was found guilty of unlawfully possessing a weapon and sentenced to a year and a half in prison in October (al-Mansuri had been in detention since January). According to the family of the journalist, cited by Human Rights Watch (HRW), the real reason behind his imprisonment was his critical writing. For the first time, a team from HRW conducted a mission to Libya in May 2005 (Amnesty International was given permission to visit Libya in 2004). HRW concluded that Libya continued to repress and imprison political opponents, even though minor steps have been taken to improve its human rights record.

Libya's print and broadcast media are government owned and publish material in support of the regime and its programs. The use of secret police and informants intimidates journalists and regular citizens alike and has created a pervasive climate of self-censorship. Few have access to news and information from outside the country, but more people are turning to the internet for information, to which authorities have responded by cracking down on online dissent.