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Arab Press Freedom Watch (APFW)
Saturday, 27 March, 2003

APFW Appeals To Mr. Blair
To Demand The Release Of Libyan Journalist Ali Al-dharrat

London-24-03-2004- Arab Press Freedom Watch (APFW) has sent an open letter the British Prime Minister Mr. Tony Blair asking him to put pressure on the Libyan Regime in order to release the journalist Ali Abdullah al-Dharrat who has been arrested in April 1973, and since he is still detained in prison.
Ibrahim Nawar, Head of the Arab Press Freedom Watch (APFW) Board sent the organisation appeal in the following open letter to Mr. Blair who is visiting Libya tomorrow:

Open Letter to PM Tony Blair on Libya

Mr. Tony Blair
Prime Minister
10 Downing St. Westminster

March 24, 2004

Mr. Prime Minister,
I’m writing to you on behalf of Arab Press Freedom Watch (APFW) in order to raise some of our concerns regarding your planned visit to Libya tomorrow, Thursday March 25, 2004. First of all, APFW believes that the policy of engagement with bad political regimes in the Arab world may produce some constructive results, providing that such a policy serves the interest of the Arab people and is not at their expense. May I share with you the concerns of ordinary Arab people who have seen some Western governments keen only on preserving their countries’ national interests in the region. So we hope that your planned visit to Libya will not result in a new policy that sells short the interest of the Libyan people in democracy, respect of human rights, the rule of law and prosperity for all.

Mr. Prime Minister,
The people of Libya have been suffering under the dictatorial regime of their military ruler Mr. Moamer Gaddafi for decades. Those who dared criticise the regime have paid a hefty price. Some of them were killed, some are still in prison and those who have been released are being kept under police surveillance 24 hours a day. Any reform in Libya should start with the release of political prisoners. One of those who is still in prison is Mr. Ali Abdullah al-Dharrat, a Libyan journalist who was arrested in April 1973 with no news about him since. I hope that you will have time to raise the case of Mr. Dharrat with Libyan officials. APFW is calling upon advocates of freedom of expression and human rights activists to put whatever pressure they can on the Libyan authorities to reveal the whereabouts of Mr. Ali Abdullah al-Dharrat and to release him.

Freedom of expression is a top priority in any reform. As are civil liberties, respect of human rights, political freedom and freedom to assemble, organize and establish political parties and trade unions. Access to information is very poor in Libya and journalists may risk their lives if they dare to refer to any official data without permission.

The Libyan media is under full government control. Many independent newspapers have been closed since Mr. Gaddafi came to power. Among these papers were al-Raid, al-Balagh, al-Alam, al-Horriya and al-Haqiqah. Libyan radio and TV stations devote their time to praise the one and only absolute leader of the country and censorship is the norm of the way the state controls the media. I hope that you will raise the issue of the media and the need for an independent and free press in Libya during your visit.

The rule of law in Libya should mean the dismantling of the so-called “Populist Committees” which are considered the only political organization in the country. The road to political reform should provide people with their right to belong to political parties in an open multiparty system. APFW hopes that your visit to Libya will open the way forward for democracy and political reform in Libya, a country where its citizens have suffered a great deal under the repressive regime of Gaddafi.

All the best,

Yours sincerely,
Ibrahim Nawar,
Head of the Board of Management,
Arab Press Freedom Watch (APFW)

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