Saliem Alshebl – a journalist and cameraman working for Libya Channel – was arrested while covering a protest at Tripoli’s Martyrs’ Square Friday evening and is being unlawfully detained in the capital. The charges against him remain unknown.
Saliem’s brother Musab told Libya Channel in a statement on Saturday that Saliem was being held by the Nawasi Brigade (also knows as the 8th Force) in a detention center in Tripoli’s Ain Zara district, and that the family had not yet been told what he is being accused of. According to Musab Alshebl, two other individuals, who were accused of working without permit on behalf of foreign media outlets, had been released from Ain Zara, but Saliem’s case had not been addressed yet.
The Channel confirms that Saliem Alshebl had all the paperwork required to exercise his profession, including an accreditation by the Media Department of the Government of National Accord.
There have also been rumors that he is being accused of espionage or alcohol consumption.
The Libyan Center for Freedom of Press (LCFP), which documents violations of press freedom and attacks the on media, has called on the GNA Interior Ministry and security agencies under its authority to act immediately to obtain Alshebl’s release and to take legal measures against those responsible for his arrest.
LCFP director Mohamed Najm said that Alshebl’s abduction was one in a series of recent assaults on media staff in Libya. “On Friday journalists present at Tripoli demonstrations told us armed groups were ‘stalking’ them and said they feared arrests”, Najm recalled on Libya Channel’s Newsroom Saturday evening. Najm added that there were several documented incidents of assaults on journalists and in some cases confiscation of their equipment.
Libya is ranked 164th out of 180 countries in Reports without Borders’ 2016 World Press Freedom Index. According to the international press freedom watchdog, the Libyan conflict since 2014 has resulted in a complete impunity for crimes of violence and abuses against journalists, with a further deterioration since last year. Last month, RSF reiterated its appeal to the GNA to publicly undertake to protect journalists and to prioritize the fight against impunity.