Since the 2011 death of leader Muammar Gaddaffi, Libya has been caught in a deep crisis and armed conflict. Media and journalists are commonly forced into the service of one of the parties involved in the conflict, to the detriment of editorial independence.
Libya is an informational black hole. Most media and reporters have fled the country. Those who remain try to ensure their safety by working under the protection of one of the warring sides. Foreign journalists can no longer cover events. Legacy media, having taken sides in the conflict, can no longer play the role of ensuring free, independent, and balanced information that reflects the society’s real issues, especially young people’s aspirations. Youth turn to social networks for a space of open dialogue, but that space is also conducive to radicalisation and dissemination of hate speech. However, a series of initiatives aim to adopt a more independent media model.
After a decade of armed conflict that points to an underlying civil war, a ceasefire was signed in March 2021, under UN supervision, between supporters of the former government of national unity in Tripoli and the troops of Marshal Khalifa Haftar. Businessman Abdul Hamid Dbeibah was appointed head of the unified Libyan government, charged with leading the country to its first general elections. However, the voting date continues to be postponed. Journalists, for their part, are often forced to adapt to the biases of the media they work for, which spawn an environment of chronic disinformation. Corruption is also widespread. In the country’s east, reporters are under Haftara’s power, and no media can criticize the military.
No regulatory agency nor framework law guarantees access to information, nor respect for media pluralism and transparency. No law guarantees freedom of expression, journalist safety nor the right to reliable information. Some laws in effect concerning freedom of expression are more than 50 years old. Press crimes are subject to prison terms.
Media financing depends on advertising revenue from enterprises run by business people close to the politically powerful. Media-political collusion, as well as the non-transparency of advertising contracts, jeopardise the independence of media and journalists. The latter work in extreme instability, subject to arbitrary dismissal at employers’ discretion.
Journalists have for years been targets of intimidation, harassment, and physical violence, although the situation apparently improved in 2021. The frequency of assaults on reporters stems from attackers’ complete impunity. Militias regularly threaten journalists, who may be attacked and are regularly imprisoned.