Libyan Islamists threaten to kill journalists - Sources
By Abdul Sattar Hatita
Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat - Asharq Al-Awsat has learnt that Libyan Islamist
militants who participated in the recent Libyan revolution that brought down
Colonel Muammar Gaddafi after almost 42 years in power have threatened to
assassinate journalists for criticizing them. Journalists working for a new
liberal newspaper launched in Libya following the collapse of the Gaddafi
regime, named the "Aarous al-Bahr" [Bride of the Sea] newspaper, received
death threats from Islamist militants in Tripoli. This was after the "Aarous
al-Bahr" newspaper criticized associates of the leader of the newly
established Tripoli Military Council, Abdelhakim Belhadj, who is himself a
former Emir of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group [LIFG].
A number of new liberal newspapers have been launched in Libya following the
ouster of Colonel Gaddafi, and they have criticized the Islamist militants
who took part in the "liberation of Tripoli", claiming that they are trying
to dictate changes in Libyan society, including calling for the closure of
beauty salons, and putting pressure on women to wear the hijab.
Belhajd's appearance as a senior figure in the 17 February revolution that
ended Colonel Gaddafi's rule has led to fears regarding the future of a
civil and democratic Libya, particularly after it was revealed that Belhadj
had fought alongside the Afghan mujahedeen against the Soviet occupation of
Afghanistan, and that he previously possessed extremist ideology, before
renouncing violence. Belhadj responded to these fears by in his first public
address in Libya, stressing that he supports the establishment of a civil
and democratic Libyan state.
However commenting on Belhadj, National Transitional Council [NTC]
representative in Egypt, Fayez Jibril, told Asharq Al-Awsat that "actions,
not words, are what matters." He also said that although Libyan society is
religious by nature, the people of Libya follow a moderate interpretation of
Islam, rejecting Islamic extremism.
"Aarous al-Bahr" Editor-in-Chief, Fathi Bin Issa, sent a letter to the NTC,
claiming that the newspaper had received telephone threats on Wednesday. He
revealed that the caller had threatened to "physically exterminate" the
newspaper's journalists for "insulting" Belhadj.
Issa sent copies of this letter to a number of local and international news
outlets, including Asharq Al-Awsat, as well as international organizations
like the UN. He stressed that this was not the first time that "Aarous
al-Bahr" had received such threats since its establishment on 31 August
2011. He said that these threats aim to prevent the "Aarous al-Bahr" staff
from carrying out their work and "informing public opinion of public
In his letter to the NTC, Issa said that "instead of those who believe that
they have been harmed by the content of the newspaper resorting to the pen
in order to refute this using proof and evidence" they have resorted to "the
method of threatening to physically extermination the journalists
responsible for this with the objective of silencing them."
Issa revealed that this was the first time that "Aarous al-Bahr" staff had
received such "explicit" death threats. He called on the Libyan authorities
to take the necessary action to protect freedom of expression in the
country, stressing that if the NTC fails to deal with this problem then "the
threat of violence and death will be the [only] means of dialogue." He also
said that the method used by these Belhadj supporters to threaten the
newspaper and its staff "is the same method used by Gaddafi and his
revolutionary committees." He stressed that Libya must not return to the
restrictions of the past, following the 17 February revolution that
liberated the country from the harsh Gaddafi rule.
For his part, Libyan journalist Emad al-Obeidi revealed that the "Aarous
al-Bahr" newspaper - in addition to another local newspaper - has adopted a
critical style that Libyan society is not used to following almost 42 years
of restrictive Gaddafi rule. He stressed that "criticism in general was
unprecedented in the Gaddafi era."
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Received on Fri Sep 23 2011 - 16:55:42 EDT