Reporters Without Borders is extremely disturbed by the Tobruk-based government’s announcement yesterday that seven journalists who disappeared months ago – four Libyans, two Tunisians and an Egyptian – have been murdered by members of armed groups.
The Tobruk-based government’s justice ministry said its information was based on the confession of five recently-arrested suspects.
The four Libyan journalists – Khaled Al-Subhi, Younis Al-Mabrouk, Abdussalam Al-Maghrebi and Youssef Al-Qamoudi – and Egyptian cameraman Mohamed Galal all worked for Libya’s Barqa TV. They went missing in August. The two Tunisians, Sofiane Chourabi and Nadhir Ktari, worked for Tunisia’s First TV. They went missing in September.
“If confirmed, this news is a tragedy for freedom of information in Libya,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.
“In view of the chaos in Libya, we ask the UN special representative in Libya, Bernardino León, to launch a special enquiry into the deaths of these journalists under UN Security Council Resolution 1738 of December 2006, and under the Geneva Conventions and their three additional protocols.
Deloire added: “We also call on the Tunisian authorities to take a formal stand on this case and to be fully transparent about the progress of their judicial investigation and their judicial proceedings against those responsible.”
Difficulty of verifying information
Contradictory reports had been circulating for several days about the discovery of the bodies of five Barqa TV journalists near the city of Beida. A Libyan military source blamed Islamic State for their deaths.
In its statement yesterday, the Tobruk-based government said it had arrested three Libyan and two Egyptian suspects who had confessed to the murders of both the Barqa TV journalists and the Tunisian journalists.
The statement contained no details about the dates or circumstances of the journalists’ deaths, or the date of the arrests of the suspect. But it did say that it would be hard for the security forces to find the bodies since they were reportedly buried near Derna, a city controlled by Islamic State and other jihadi groups.
The five Barqa TV journalists were kidnapped at a false roadblock near the northeastern city of Adjabia as they were heading to Benghazi via Derna after covering the opening session of the House of Representatives in August 2014.
The two Tunisian journalists disappeared while investigating the security situation in the Tunisian-Libyan border area in September. A support committee was created for them in Tunisia, which Reporters Without Borders joined when a demonstration was held in Tunis in November.
A branch of Islamic state reportedly announced in January that it had executed them but this was never confirmed.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain reliable information in Libya, where unconfirmed information circulates quickly and often helps to fuel tension between the various warring factions.
Libya is ranked 154th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
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