- The Libyan government daily 'Al-Zahf al-Akhdar' ("The Green Step") has been suspended for one week for suggesting that Colonel Muammar Ghaddafi should no longer be referred to as the "guide of the revolution" and should instead start behaving as a genuine Head of State. This is the second time the newspaper gets suspended in four months.
'Al-Zahf al-Akhdar' was immediately suspended for one week on 27 January after the government daily had made these suggestions. The paper's edition was also censored and removed from newsstands.
Libyan authorities said 'Al-Zahf al-Akhdar' was suspended for making "serious mistakes" and for "publishing articles contrary to the power of the masses," which Libyan authorities see incorporated through the country's leader, Colonel Ghaddafi.
The French news agency AFP reported that the Libyan newspaper had recently carried an article calling on Mr Ghaddafi to "fully exercise the power of a President and to put an end to the rhetoric surrounding his title as 'guide of the revolution'".
The article said the revolution had matured and it was "now time to change the rules of the game and create a model state. ... The warrior who has led this revolution must now build the state and truly become President," the government paper had added.
All media in Libya are fully controlled by the government and mostly only repeat the statements handed out to them by officials or the Libyan state-controlled news agency. 'Al-Zahf al-Akhdar' until recently has plaid an equally passive role.
The newspaper however was internationally noted in October last year, after its editorial went far in insulting and criticising the government's of Bahrain and Kuwait - adding to a massive critique from Colonel Ghaddafi.
Following this editorial - and Mr Ghaddafi's attempts to repair the diplomatic crisis between Libya and the two Gulf states - 'Al-Zahf al-Akhdar' was suspended for one week three months ago. This week's editorial, criticising Mr Ghaddafi's government style, however goes one step further in critical journalism from the government-controlled newspaper.
International press freedom groups place great hope in newspapers like 'Al-Zahf al-Akhdar' when it comes to develop seeds of an independent press in Libya. They naturally have protested the decision to suspend the newspaper.
The Paris-based media watchdog Reporters sans Frontičres (RSF) today called on Libyan authorities to "allow a free and independent press to express itself." RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard said the censorship of 'Al-Zahf al-Akhdar' was not acceptable.
- Despite Colonel Ghaddafi's concessions in the international arena, aimed at giving his regime a more favourable and open image, he has still not made the slightest gesture towards improving press freedom, which is non-existent in his country, Mr Ménard stressed.
RSF also noted that Mr Ghaddafi was "not content with silencing the Libyan press", but also launches legal action against journalists who criticise him abroad. "It is high time the colonel changed his approach towards the press," Mr Ménard said.
On 25 January, Libya's ambassador to Rabat, Morocco, filed a complaint against Mustapha Alaoui, editor of the weekly 'Al-Ousbou', over an article about Libya's decision to abandon its nuclear weapons programme. The article called on Libya to compensate the families of Moroccans who were killed by Libyan arms supplied to the Sahrawi liberation front Polisario. It was accompanied by a cartoon considered defamatory by Mr Ghaddafi, because it showed the silhouette of a figure with its trousers down.
- There was nothing [in the cartoon] that identified Ghaddafi, so the complaint is without any merit, Mr Alaoui told RSF. "But Ghaddafi tries to harass journalists who dare to question his policies, even outside Libya," the Moroccan editor said.
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