By Sami Zaptia.
London, 21 October 2020:
The head of the Libyan Media Foundation, Mohamed Baiyu, was kidnapped yesterday by the Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade, a Tripoli-based militia recognized by the internationally recognized Libyan government in Tripoli headed by Faiez Serraj.
To confirm his kidnapping the TRB published a picture of Baiyu in front of its logo.
Baiyu, a journalist, is deemed, with good reason, to represent the Qaddafi era. He worked for the former regime. He is accused of not being revolutionary enough by the 17 February revolutionaries and even a “close to the war criminal Haftar.”
Things seem to have come to a head when Baiyu reportedly ordered state TV to stop broadcasting the Volcano of Anger Operation Room emblem on their channels, stop labelling Hafter a “war criminal”, and stop reporting on the war on Tripoli. He is also reported to have described the war on Tripoli as a ”civil war”. The Volcano of Anger Operation Room was the unified militia force that repulsed Hafter’s attack on Tripoli. It suffered many deaths during the war effort.
Just hours before he was kidnapped, Baiyu had published a threatening phone message he had received from TRB Commander, Ayoub Abu Ras.
Baiyu’s appointment by Serraj on 10 October was controversial and even the Serraj-led Presidency Council is split on it and considers it an ‘‘illegal’’ appointment.
Serraj had appointed him as an experienced journalist in the hope that the Libyan state could regain control over its various media outlets and over the unified message that its media outlets disseminate. Serraj had lamented the fact that most of Libya’s media outlets are biased, politicized, based abroad and were dominating the media narrative.
The incident is yet another manifestation of the weakness of the Libyan state, the absence of the rule of law and legal process and the dominance of militias in Libya. Incidentally, both Serraj and his Interior Minister, Fathi Bashagha, happen to be in Italy on an official visit.
The NGO, the Libyan Centre for Freedom of the Press, today ”strongly condemned the kidnapping”.