Libya: Escalation of Internet Shutdowns and Erosion of Digital Freedom

Libyan authorities have recently intensified their efforts to control the information flow in the country, through a series of internet and communication shutdowns. These blackouts are used to launch arrest operations against activists in all secrecy. The erosion of digital freedom in Libya is a serious source of concern as it violates the rights of the population and is used by armed forces to commit human rights abuses.

In early October, the Libyan Arab Armed Forces abruptly severed internet access in Benghazi, Libya's second-largest city, under the pretext of a military operation against a “destructive cell" effectively isolating the city from the rest of the world for over a week.

A parallel situation unfolded in mid-September in the city of Derna, following protests triggered by the dams’ collapse disaster that resulted in numerous casualties. The Libyan Arab Armed Forces imposed a four-day internet and communication shutdown.

In Sirte, internet and communications faced recurrent disruptions because of demonstrations, with the most recent incidents occurring at the beginning of September.

Throughout these shutdowns, the authorities have launched extensive arrest operations and conducted home raids targeting activists and protesters.

Libyan authorities resort to internet shutdowns when security deteriorates or protests intensify, disguising these actions as national security and counter-terrorism measures. However, their true purpose is to stifle opposition and suppress freedom. These shutdowns blatantly violate human rights, impeding freedom of expression, access to information, and basic communication rights. They also impact healthcare, the economy, education, and businesses, and isolate vulnerable populations from the outside world.

To address this issue, legislative authorities in Libya must enact comprehensive laws to govern internet shutdowns, ensure transparency, accountability, and judicial oversight. Additionally, the government should collaborate with local and international service providers to guarantee stable and secure internet and telecommunications services for its citizens.

Civil society organizations also have a crucial role to play in monitoring and documenting violations while advocating for substantive reforms. International organizations must extend their support to the Libyan people in their quest for their rights and assist them in building robust democratic institutions that uphold justice and safeguard freedoms.

Ali Alaspli Libya Crimes Watch
Ali Alaspli, Human Rights Researcher – Director of Libya Crimes Watch