The UN support mission in Libya condemns the “illegal arrest” of Mohammed Baayou after speaking out against Islamist groups in Tripoli.
The United Nations on Thursday condemned the “illegal arrest” of the head of the Libyan media agency for “his immediate and unconditional release”.
Mohammed Baayou, a journalist and prominent media representative under the leadership of the deposed ruler Muammar Gaddafi, has spoken out resolutely against Islamist groups and against the many armed forces vying for control over parts of Libya.
The UN Assistance Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said Baayou, head of the Libyan media company, was arrested on Tuesday in the capital Tripoli.
His two sons and Hind Ammar, a journalist for the Libyan television channel al-Wataniya, were also arrested but have since been released.
Libya has been ravaged by violence since a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled and killed veteran leader Gaddafi.
Since then, the North African country has been dominated by armed groups ravaged by local conflicts and divided between two bitterly opposed governments: the United Nations-recognized government of the National Agreement (GNA) led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj and a rival government Administration in the east linked to the renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar.
Photos published on social media reportedly show Baayou being held at the headquarters of a powerful armed group, the Tripoli Revolutionary Brigade, allied with the GNA.
The Tripoli government has not yet commented on the arrest.
“This latest round of arbitrary arrests highlights the personal risks journalists take to promote freedom of expression in Libya,” the UN statement said.
“Freedom of the media is vital to Libya’s democratic transition,” he added.
The US Embassy in Tripoli also condemned “the illegal detention” of Baayou, saying it “reaffirms American support for the rule of law in Libya and the protection of journalists and all Libyans in their right to freedom of expression”.