Panafrican News Agency

Obstructed political process, pressure for Libyan contracts by foreign powers hit headlines this week

Tripoli, Libya (PANA) - Persistent obstacles in the political talks in Libya indicate a stalemate in both the political process and the military, Libyan newspapers said wrote this week, also citing efforts by regional and international powers to win contracts in Libya as a reason for pressuring them to do so.

The Libyan press also focused on the situation of journalists and media professionals in the country plagued by insecurity and chaos, for nearly a decade after the February 17 revolution that toppled Muammar Gaddafi's regime.

Al-Wassat wrote that behind-the-scenes differences over the tracks of the political and military solution have made "the Libyan situation more blurred and ambiguous," adding that the inability to appoint a new UN envoy, the apparent conflict between  Libyan parties and the hidden interference of influential international powers regarding the candidates for high positions in the new authority as well as the appointment mechanisms, have added to the complexity of the situation.

In an article titled 'Confusion and ambiguity haunt the paths to a solution'Al-Wassat said that a few hours before the official announcement of his appointment as UN envoy to Libya, Nikolai Mladenov surprised the United Nations by informing the Secretary-General of his intention to withdraw from the mission entrusted to him, which was due to start next January, explaining his decision was based on "family and personal" reasons.

According to the newspaper, while the different tracks of the political process are still stalled, details lie in discrepancies, as the Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Stephanie Williams, urged the different parties and members of the legal committee emanating from the Forum for Political Dialogue, to "avoid focusing on minor problems, which are of no value except as a deliberate obstruction".

The newspaper reported, on the other hand, that the Authority drafting the constitution has not digested the announcement of the formation of a legal committee to agree on the constitutional provisions leading to the elections. 

According to the newspaper, insiders say the reason for its rejection is the UN Mission's desire to amend certain provisions of the draft constitution, which were previously completed by an elected body, empowered by the people under the Constitutional Declaration and Supreme Court decisions.

The Libyan weekly, published in Cairo, Egypt, reported, however, that those who follow the Libyan scene closely believe that the Legal Committee's objective is to go beyond obstructing the presidency of the House of Representatives (Parliament) to present the draft constitution for ratification and allow the people to vote on it in a referendum, at a time when disagreements persist among parliamentarians over the priority of choosing a new president for the Presidential Council, whose candidate is Aguila Saleh or changing the presidency of Parliament.

The newspaper reported speculation about new alliances that Tripoli may witness between the city's armed groups after the sudden appearance of the commander of the so-called Tripoli Revolutionary Brigade, Haythem al-Tajouri, after months of absence during which he launched a strong attack against the Ministry of the Interior, its efforts and the entire government, calling on "the 5+5 Joint Military Commission to clarify the reason for the delay and impediment to the implementation of the terms of the agreement that was reached in Sirte".

He stressed, according to the weekly, that the terms of the agreement "have not yet implemented a single clause", stating that these statements accompany the return of  former Defence Minister of the Government of National Accord, Mehdi Al-Barghati, to ask the Presidential Council to bring him back to his post after his innocence was proven by judicial decision in the "massacre of the Brak Al-Chati camp in mid-2017". 

Raising the conditions of media professionals in Libya, Afrigatenews said that nine years after the events of February 2011, media freedom is going through an unprecedented crisis in the country. "The practice of journalism has become a risky venture under the regime of armed groups and the lack of security, which inevitably leads to the lack of stability," the online paper said.

Libya is at the bottom of the Press Freedom Index world ranking by many international organizations, the newspaper pointed out, given that not all the criteria related to freedom of expression and media are respected, such as constitutional and legal guarantees for journalists, structural reform of the media, the increase in violence and bloody attacks, as well as massive attacks.

Afrigatenews reported that this year Libya ranked 162nd in the world for press freedom, according to the latest statistics from Reporters Without Borders.

The journalists' defence organization said, according to the newspaper, that the drop in Libya's ranking in the World Press Freedom Index is caused by the political and security instability that the country has been experiencing for years, as well as the armed conflicts and wars that accompany it, which have had a negative impact on the lives of journalists and led to the murder of a number of them, in addition to their arbitrary arrest.

Last year, the newspaper recalled, Libya was ranked 164th keeping the same index as the year before, while this year it is ranked 162nd for reasons related to the security situation.

The periodic report notes that the media has become a party to the ongoing conflict in Libya and the accompanying armed conflict between two governments, one in the east of the country and the other in the west, the newspaper noted.  It explained that "the warring parties are plunging many media actors into the conflicting turmoil, in addition to using the media as a propaganda tool".

On the other hand, the Reporters Without Borders report notes that "the Libyan media is paying a heavy price due to the political and security instability in Libya as the media and journalists face an unprecedented crisis, and the political and military actors in the Libyan conflict have set themselves up as guardians of media platforms and censor what they publish".

Referring to the competition between regional and international powers in Libya, Al-Wassat said that the existence of previous debts claimed by foreign companies that have implemented several contracts before and after 2011, represents an "incentive" for major international powers to "pressure" Libyan authorities to collect money or complete blocked projects and acquire new contracts, which was revealed by the consultations conducted by Italy, Russia, and before that, the Turkish efforts.

Italy, Russia, Turkey and China each have billions of dollars in contracts with the former regime, the newspaper said, pointing out that in some cases with the Libyan governments after the 2011 revolution, assuring that these countries have not digested "the bitterness of total loss" for these contracts.

Therefore, the newspaper added, foreign companies have revived the issue of "compensation" that they are claiming for material damages, equipment, transportation of workers, lost opportunities and various losses.

It said that until 2019, the government of national accord had paid 40 billion Libyan dinars (about $29.85 billion) out of the total value of contracts amounting to 126 billion dinars (about $94.02 billion), which were aimed at implementing development projects, while the remaining value does not represent a "debt" of the Libyan state, according to officials of the Presidential Council, but rather comes in exchange for actions that were not implemented due to the state of "force majeure", and security and political unrest.
-0- PANA BY/IS/MTA/AR 26Dec2020