Libya’s digital rights landscape presents a complex picture marked by ongoing challenges to freedom of speech, internet access, and privacy. The country’s current state is significantly shaped by its political and social history, particularly following the fall of Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi in 2011. Since then, Libya has experienced internal divisions, civil conflict, and interference by regional powers, all of which have contributed to a deteriorating human rights situation.

Freedom of Speech and Expression
Libya’s penal code contains provisions that severely restrict freedom of speech and expression. For instance, the code includes over 30 articles stipulating the death penalty, including for acts related to speech and association. A notable case is that of Diaa el-Din Ahmed Miftah Balaou, sentenced to death in 2019 for apostasy, a sentence that was under review by the Supreme Court as of September 2023​. Additionally, the Internal Security Agency in Tripoli has been involved in arresting individuals for activities deemed “atheist, areligious, secular, and feminist,” leading to the dissolution of several grassroots movements and driving members into hiding​​.

Censorship and Internet Freedom
The internet freedom in Libya has been declining, with the Anti-Cybercrime Law, enforced in September 2022, being particularly problematic. This law includes harsh penalties for online speech and grants authorities the power to block websites and criminalize the use of encryption tools. Internet service has been deliberately restricted at times, notably around protests or significant political events​. The country’s internet infrastructure also faces challenges due to high demand, damage from conflict, and theft of information and communications technology (ICT) equipment, leading to inconsistent internet service and slow connectivity speeds​.

Surveillance and Privacy
The Anti-Cybercrime Law has been criticized for its vague and overbroad definitions, which could lead to prosecution for peaceful expression, with punishments including prison terms of up to 15 years and stiff fines. The National Information and Security and Safety Authority (NISSA) is granted extensive authority under this law to block access to websites and censor online content without judicial oversight, ostensibly to protect “public order and morality” or “national security.” This authority is seen as a significant infringement on the rights to privacy and free expression​.

In conclusion, Libya’s digital rights environment is marked by significant challenges. The restrictive legal framework, coupled with ongoing political instability, severely limits freedom of expression and privacy while enabling extensive surveillance and censorship. These conditions reflect the broader struggles Libya faces in transitioning to a stable and rights-respecting society post-Qadhafi.

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