Libya's Forgotten Man
libya qaddafi - 20 April 2009
No freedom of expression in Libya
Since 1969 Colonel Gaddafi has taken
a hard line against troublesome representatives of the media. This
uncompromising stance is exemplified by his treatment of the Libyan
journalist Abdullah Ali al-Sanussi Al-Darrat, who has been missing since
1973. By Hamid Skif
In some parts of the Islamic world
(Syria, Tunisia, Libya, Saudi Arabia), the media are so strictly
controlled that even the mildest forms of protest are forbidden.
In other Islamic countries (Egypt,
Algeria, Morocco, Yemen), working conditions are somewhat easier; yet
journalists still struggle to work under the eyes of a subservient
judiciary tasked with applying a legal code that is inimical to freedom.
Critical journalists muzzled
Take Libya, for instance:
"Jamahiriya" ("the republic of the masses"), as Muammar Gaddafi would have
it. This year, there has been an international campaign to secure the
release of around 500 journalists imprisoned there. In addition, there
have been calls for an investigation into the case of Abdullah Ali Al-Sanussi
Al-Darrat, a Libyan journalist who disappeared without trace in 1973.
Since the putsch that brought
Gaddafi to power in September 1969, Libyans have been heavily burdened by
a ban on all forms of freedom of expression. When asked about Al-Darrat's
abduction, people are at a loss to explain why he was targeted or where he
has been held prisoner.
Al-Darrat was never sentenced in any
court, and while the Libyan Human Rights League has attempted to discover
more about his fate, all such enquiries have so far fallen on deaf ears.
Most observers reckon that the
missing journalist is long since dead, yet no one has the slightest idea
about the circumstances under which his presumed death took place.
What is puzzling about Al-Darrat is
the absence of any public campaigns on his behalf. Should "the forgotten
man of the desert" still actually be alive, he will by now have spent 33
years in jail without anyone having enquired about his fate.
Al-Darrat case – a taboo subject in Libya
None of Libya's prominent state
guests has ventured to ask Colonel Gaddafi about Al-Darrat's whereabouts,
and no one in Libya has ever publicly demanded his release. With the
current "normalisation" of relations between Libya, the USA and the
European Union, the inevitable fear is that no further light will be shed
on the matter.
This will remain the case as long as
the political interests of the states involved carry significantly more
weight than human rights.
Western leaders' public
pronouncements in support of human rights stand in sharp contrast to their
lack of concrete action. As a result, suspicions are strengthened in the
Arab world that the West takes notice of such matters only when its own
interests in the region are at stake.
Therefore, this year's World Press
Freedom Day should be dedicated to Abdullah Ali al-Sanussi Al-Darrat. His
freedom should be demanded, or – at the very least – the Libyan government
should be urged to supply verifable information as to his whereabouts.
Despite the focus on Al-Darrat,
other imprisoned journalists, in Syria and elsewhere, should not be
forgotten. In Morocco, for instance, Mohamed Benchicou is currently
serving a jail sentence for publishing a pamphlet criticising President
© Qantara.de 2006
Translated from the German by
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