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Libya: Foundation’s Dissolution Detrimental to Independent Media Required for Free and Fair Elections

In Arab Countries, International Advocacy Program, Media & Human Rights by CIHRS

On 2 July, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) joined six Libyan and international organisations in a letter addressed to the president of the Libyan Government of National Unity, Mr. Abdel Hamid Dbeibah. The signatory organisations expressed their rejection of Decision No. 116 adopted on 15 June, which dissolves the Libyan Media Foundation into six governmental authorities, leading to further fragmentation of public media on the basis of political affiliation. Six months before elections, public media in Libya urgently needs to be unified rather than further divided, in order for it to provide trustworthy and independent information to voters – a prerequisite for free and fair elections. The signatories also expressed their solidarity with employees who lost their jobs as a result of this arbitrary decision.

Decision to Dissolve the Libyan Media Foundation is Detrimental to Reforming Public Media  

Open Letter to the President of the Government of National Unity

Your Excellency, President of the Government of National Unity, Mr. Abdel Hamid Dbeibah

Tripoli, 2 July

Mr. President of the Government,

The undersigned Libyan and international non-governmental organisations are deeply concerned by Decision No. 116 of 15 June 2021 issued by the Council of Ministers, relating to the dissolution of the Libyan Media Foundation, the fragmentation of public media institutions and the transfer of their supervision to six governmental authorities, without any respect for standards of good governance and free expression.

Our organisations had previously recommended reforming the Foundation’s legal status and structure, enhancing its role, and ensuring the existence of an independent institution that would oversee the public service media sector, grant licenses, regulate the audio-visual sector, and monitor professional violations in a way that guarantees the independence of media institutions under its supervision on the one hand, and contributes to improving their performance so as to guarantee the Libyan people’s right to impartial and neutral media on the other.

We had been expecting a revision of the decision regarding the Libyan Media Foundation and the formation of a board of directors who demonstrate independence, professionalism and integrity to oversee the Foundation. Contrary to our expectations, a decision was taken to dissolve it and transfer the oversight of public media outlets to various governmental bodies. This decision will increase government control over public media – including by facilitating state interference in media editorship and content – in violation of media freedom and independence, just a few months before the elections expected at the end of this year.

In this context, we remind you of the pledges you made in your 3 May  speech on World Press Freedom Day and your signature of Government Circular No. 8 on the same day pledging to promote and restructure press and media outlets by setting standards for governance, appointing a board of directors supervising and managing the Libyan Media Foundation, and dismissing its Chairman, who was interfering with their editorial decisions.

We unequivocally reject Decision No. 116 of 2021, and urge you to immediately abandon the dangerous policy that will result from this decision. The resulting distribution of public media outlets between governmental and political factions will distort them into a political propaganda tool instead of allowing the media to uphold its role as a public service that guarantees the right of access to impartial and neutral information in the public interest of the people in Libya.

We further express our  firm solidarity with employees of the media institutions arbitrarily dissolved under this decision. Institutions were dissolved without the application of any objective and deliberate criteria, affecting some institutions while preserving others.

Mr. President of the Government, six months prior to the expected date of the elections  next December, there remains a crucial opportunity to implement a set of urgent reforms and measures, which will enable the public media to uphold its essential role in providing trustworthy and reliable information to voters and candidates alike. This would play a key part in the success of the upcoming elections, and constitute an important step in the path towards democratic transition in Libya.

After the elections, reforms related to the media sector must also then be completed, through the adoption of laws guaranteeing media freedom and independence, and the establishment of an independent institution to regulate audiovisual media in Libya, in accordance with international standards.

Respectfully Yours,

  • Aman Organisation against Discrimination
  • Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  • Democratic Transition and Human Rights Support Center (DAAM)
  • Libyan Center for Freedom of the Press
  • Libyan Crimes Watch
  • Libyan Organisation for Legal Aid

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