Libyan militia must release two journalists detained while covering elections

Misratah militia threatening to forcibly free the men from their Beni Walid captivity.

Two journalists from the city of Misratah detained by militias from Beni Walid while covering the landmark Libyan national elections on 7 July, should be immediately and unconditionally released, said Amnesty International today.

Reporter and cameraman Abdelkader Fusuk, and cameraman Youssef Baadi were covering the elections in the towns of Mizda and Nesma, some 100 miles south of Tripoli, for the Misratah-based Tobakets TV and radio station, when they were reportedly seized by militias from Beni Walid on their way back to Misratah.

They are believed to be held at an unofficial detention centre in Beni Walid. In video footage that appeared after their detention, an unidentified man is heard accusing them of entering a military zone in a military vehicle without permission.

According to information available to Amnesty, the two were travelling in a pick-up truck belonging to the head of the Tobakets station and had with them their press identity cards and accreditation. Media reports suggest that their captors demanded the release of detainees from Beni Walid held in Misratah as a condition for the media workers’ freedom.

Youssef Baadi’s father told Amnesty that his son phoned home, saying he was being well-treated, but that he has yet to be told the exact reasons for his detention.

Yesterday, Libya’s Deputy Prime Minister Mostafa Abou Shakour condemned Baadi and Fusuk’s detention, calling for their immediate release and stressing that the government alone is responsible for law enforcement. His condemnation followed a public outcry and threats by local Misratah armed militias to free the two men by force. Armed forces from Misratah are reportedly preparing for a possible assault if the Thursday deadline set for their release is not met.
 
Amnesty Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said:

“Guaranteeing freedom of expression was a key goal of the ‘17 February Revolution’. It is inconceivable that two media workers are detained simply for carrying out their work and entering a city without authorisation.

“If Beni Walid militias had concerns about their behaviour, they should have referred them to the authorities and not taken the law into their own hands. They should certainly not use them as pawns to address their regional tensions with Misratah.

“While Abdelkader Fusuk and Youssef Baadi’s continual detention is unacceptable, the use of force against the whole town of Beni Walid is not the solution. This will only exacerbate the situation and lead to more human rights abuses. Such an assault would endanger the local population, and sow the seeds of further regional tension.”

Rein in armed militias in Libya

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