Purpose - This purpose of this paper is to add strength and depth to the few other studies that take Libya as a point of departure to understanding the dynamic between disclosure practices and the context in which they are performed. Not enough is known about social accounting disclosure practices in developing countries. Design/methodology/approach - A sample of 270 annual reports from 54 companies, both public and private, across a range of sectors and covering a five-year period (2001-2005) was analysed using content analysis to ascertain patterns and trends in corporate social reporting by Libyan companies. Findings - Libyan companies generally disclose some information related to social responsibility but at a low level compared with developed countries and only in certain areas. This situation changed little over the five-year period under scrutiny. Research limitations/implications - During the five-year period examined, corporate social responsibility remained largely unresponsive to significant changes in the political scene that occurred over a much longer period of time. This suggests that further research is needed to illuminate the role and influence of societal culture and to understand the impact of organisational subculture on disclosure and responsibility practices. Originality/value - Libya provides a point of departure for further research into other transitioning or developing economies, particularly those in the Arab world. It also offers unique insights and the possibility for comparative studies between them due to its particular character. This note augments and adds depth to other studies in the area.