ALGIERS (Reuters) - Libyan authorities have detained 10 journalists employed by a news agency controlled by a son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, the agency said, in an apparent sign of a power struggle inside the ruling elite.
The news agency is part of a media group founded by Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, who is seen as a possible successor to his father but has been waging a turf war with a conservative old guard and has been openly critical of the government.
Last week local media reported that the print version of Oea newspaper — another part of Saif al-Islam’s Al Ghad media group — had been suspended after it published an article criticising the government.
“For the second day in a row the Libyan authorities are holding 10 journalists belonging to the office of Libya Press in Tripoli, without giving any reasons for such detention,” the news agency said on its Internet site.
“(The detention) was carried out by the Internal Security Agency on Friday evening, violating the law on the promotion of freedom ... and all international norms and conventions signed by Libya,” the agency said in a statement on Sunday.
It also urged the immediate release of the journalists, who according to a list of names published on its Internet site, include four women.
There was no immediate comment from government officials.
Saif al-Islam’s criticism of the government has become more vocal in the past few months. In September, he accused the government of ineptitude and said “there is no state in Libya.”
Since then, Oea published an article calling for a “final assault” on the government which it alleged had failed to tackle corruption.
Quryna newspaper, another part of the Al Ghad group, reported that Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi met on Saturday with media representatives and officials to “urge them to develop a mechanism on how to respond to his critics.”
Muammar Gaddafi has remained publicly neutral in previous disputes between conservatives and reformers. Some analysts say the infighting helps him maintain his grip on power because it prevents any one group from becoming too powerful.