Libyan rebels in Misrata restrict press freedoms

Friday, June 24, 2011

Rebel authorities in the Libyan city of Misrata have begun implementing tighter restrictions on foreign journalists in the city this week, in response to fears that spies for President Muammar al-Gaddafi may be among them.

Under the new restrictions, reporters have been barred from traveling to the front lines of the conflict, denied access to high-speed internet links and ordered to use translators approved by Misratan officials. Additionally, reporters accredited by the rebel government based in Benghazi, the National Transitional Council, are no longer recognized as such by local officials and are required to register with Misrata authorities or face deportation.

According to Mohammed Durat, an official in charge of the Misrata media center, the changes have come about because authorities "are afraid of spies from Gaddafi." He also said that the new restrictions are intended to benefit reporters, saying that "[w]e are caring about you, we don't want you to get any bad thing" and that "[y]ou should be happy about this."

Morale in Misrata has fallen in recent weeks, after rebel forces have failed to expand the area they control after a month of fighting and are suffering increasing casualties. In the urban areas, after a month of reletive calm, pro-Gaddafi forces have again begun shelling buildings, with minimal response from NATO forces, despite a declaration on June 14 that NATO helicopter strikes would be carried out if civilian targets were attacked.