Freedom of the Press

Libya

Libya

Freedom of the Press 2007

2007 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

The press remains tightly controlled despite the regime’s continued efforts to curry favor with the West by presenting Libya as a changed nation. Libyan law provides for freedom of speech and of the press within the confines of the “principles of the Revolution.” Authorities strictly control these freedoms, especially criticism of the government. The press laws are draconian, and regime opponents face punishments as harsh as death for crossing the government. All unsanctioned political acts are illegal, so many forms of expression are illegal as well. Foreign publications are censored and occasionally outlawed. Any criticism of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi can lead to time in prison.

Challenging the regime in any meaningful way is not part of public discourse in Libya. A vast network of secret police and informers exists to ensure that state critics are known to the regime. Most critics of the government are political activists of Libyan origin living outside the country. These critics publish information about human rights abuses and other domestic events on the internet. But the government is well aware of these activities, and emigrés who take public positions critical of the regime can be imprisoned if they travel to Libya. Cyberdissident Abdel Razek al-Mansouri, arrested in January 2005 for publishing critical articles on a London-based website, was released in March 2006. However, another cyberdissident, Idrees Mohammed Boufayed, has not been heard from since November, when he was required to attend a meeting with the Internal Security Agency. In fact, the Libyan government has even exerted pressure on other governments, particularly those in neighboring countries, to crack down on critics of the regime. For example, in October 2006 Libya’s diplomatic mission to Algeria filed a complaint against the independent paper Ech-Chourouk after the paper suggested that Qaddafi should negotiate with the Touareg tribes regarding the creation of an independent state. Less than a month later, Algerian courts suspended the paper for two months, ordered it to pay 500,000 dinars (US$7,150) in damages directly to Qaddafi, and sentenced the paper’s editor, Ali Fadil, and the article’s author, Naila Berrahal, to six months each in prison. The only person allowed to offer harsh criticism about the lack of democracy is Qaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, who in August admitted that there is “no press” and “no democracy” in Libya and recognized that this fact was known by all.

Much of Libya’s local press is moribund, and pro-government party newspapers publish Soviet-era regime praises daily. Editors and journalists who want to keep their jobs are close to the regime. There is no independent press. The General Press Institute (GPI), a branch of the Information Ministry, owns three of the major newspapers, while the fourth is owned by the Movement of Revolutionary Committees, a state-supported ideological organization. The same is true of broadcast media. Television and radio are state controlled, and popular Pan-Arab satellite TV stations like Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya do not have local correspondents covering Libya. Internet use is reported at only 3 percent of the population, and access is monitored carefully. Few have recourse 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. The GPI reportedly imposed web-proxy blocking architecture on certain websites, severely restricting the ability of journalists from GPI–financed newspapers to access papers from outside Libya.