In Summary
  • The battle pits the forces of Tripoli's UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) against fighters loyal to Haftar, who backs a parallel administration in eastern Libya.
  • The rival sides each run their own news agencies and official television channels.
  • And Libya's private media outlets have dug in too -- taking sides and thereby exposing their journalists to potential reprisals.

TRIPOLI,

In a country splintered by conflict and propaganda wars, Libya's journalists are caught in the crossfire between battle fronts and partisan employers, exposing them to risks on the ground.

Fighting that erupted in early April when eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive on the capital Tripoli has only exacerbated the cleavages in the country's already fragmented mediascape.

The battle pits the forces of Tripoli's UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) against fighters loyal to Haftar, who backs a parallel administration in eastern Libya.

The rival sides each run their own news agencies and official television channels.

And Libya's private media outlets have dug in too -- taking sides and thereby exposing their journalists to potential reprisals.

"Because of the conflict... journalists in Libya can't do their normal work anymore," Mohamed al-Najem, who runs the Libyan Center for Freedom of Press (LCFP), told AFP.

CHARGED CONTENT

Threats and attacks since the 2011 ouster of longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi have prompted several private television networks established by businessmen and politicians in the years immediately after his fall to pull out and transmit from abroad.

Some new outlets have followed suit, broadcasting politically charged content from overseas.

"The (Libyan) media, especially the ones broadcasting from abroad, are largely responsible for the exacerbation of hate speech and incitement to violence," Najem said.

Those outlets, he added, are "encouraging abuses on the ground, which affect their journalists".

ATTACKS

In its latest poll on worldwide press freedoms, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Libya 162 out of 180 countries.

The LCFP has documented 32 attacks on journalists since early April, in what it says marks an increase since Haftar launched his offensive.

"Libyan media is facing an unprecedented crisis," said RSF's North Africa head, Souhaieb Khayati.

He said many journalists were, "whether they like it or not", forced to work with Libya's warring factions.

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