Libya | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press



Freedom of the Press 2009

2009 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

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


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

  • Libyan media remain among the most tightly controlled in the world. While Libyan law provides for freedom of speech and of the press within the confines of “the principles of the Revolution,” the government severely limits the rights of the media in practice, and journalists who violate the harsh press codes can be imprisoned or sentenced to death.
  • The press avoids publishing any material that could be deemed offensive or threatening, particularly to Islam, national security, territorial integrity, or Colonel Muammar al-Qadhafi, the country’s leader.
  • Those who criticize the government from outside the country, such as in foreign-based publications or websites, may be arrested upon entering Libya. There have been several cases over the past few years in which the government has harassed or imprisoned Libyans who denounced it on Europe-based websites. A vast network of secret police and informers works to ensure that state critics are known to the regime, fostering a high level of self-censorship.
  • In 2008, journalist Jamal al-Haji was sentenced to 12 years in prison. He and 13 others were detained for planning a peaceful demonstration in the capital to commemorate the 11 people who died during a clash with the police in February 2006. Sentences for the other defendants ranged from 6 to 25 years. Separately, human rights activist Fathi al-Jahmi remained in custody throughout the year despite his deteriorating health. He was sentenced to prison in 2004 after calling for a free press and free elections.
  • The government owns and strictly controls all print and broadcast media. The General Press Institute owns three daily newspapers (Al-Jamahiriya, Al-Shams, and Al-Fajr al-Jadeed), while the government-supported Movement of Revolutionary Committees owns the fourth daily, Al-Zahf al-Akhder.
  • The first steps toward private media were made in 2007, when a subsidiary of the Qadhafi Development Foundation was allowed to launch a satellite television station, a radio station, and two daily newspapers. However, the foundation was established by Saif al-Islam al-Qadhafi, the son of Muammar al-Qadhafi, which casts doubt on the independence and truly private nature of these outlets.
  • No foreign publications are available, and although satellite television is accessible, the government occasionally blocks foreign programming. Popular pan-Arab satellite television stations such as Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya do not have local correspondents covering Libya.
  • Internet penetration remains relatively low; just over 4 percent of the population used the medium in 2008. Nevertheless, the government reportedly monitors internet communications, regularly blocks opposition websites, occasionally blocks other sites, including those that support minority rights. The country’s only internet service provider is government owned.