The news agency Libya Press, caught in apparent infighting within Libya’s ruling elite, said it had closed its operations in Libya because a police crackdown threatened its reporters’ safety.
The news agency, part of the Al Ghad media group founded by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s reform-minded son Saif al-Islam, said it had told its reporters in Libya “it cannot offer them protection because of the intensified police harassment”.
“Libya Press’s officials have decided to close the agency and its main operation in Tripoli and leave the country definitively to work from several European capitals,” it said in a statement.
“Security authorities have told Al Ghad’s officials they do not want a presence of the agency inside Libya,” it said, reports Reuters.
“The agency’s managers expressed their shock at the security escalation, the deliberate restrictions against Libya Press and the way its reporters were treated as if they were members of a terrorist cell,” the agency said.
Government officials were not immediately available for comment. Libya’s reformist and conservative camps have clashed on several occasions in the past over the country’s political direction, and the Al Ghad group has at times been drawn into their disputes.
Early last month, police arrested 22 Libya Press reporters after newspapers in the group published articles critical of the government. They were later released after Muammar Gaddafi intervened.
Early this year the newspapers Oea and Quryna, both part of the group, said they were forced to suspend publication by officials unhappy with their reporting. They returned to newsstands in July. Domestic politics in Libya, home to Africa’s biggest proven oil reserves, are monitored closely by Western oil majors including BP, Eni and Exxon Mobil.
They have invested billions of dollars in Libyan oil and gas projects and some analysts say their investments could be jeopardised by shifts in the political landscape. Some analysts say the rows between reformists and conservatives help preserve Muammar Gaddafi’s paramount power because they prevent any one group from becoming dominant.