Social Share

Real picture in Libya calmer than media storm suggests


Fighting has intensified in several key cities in Libya, as pro-Gaddafi forces strike to regain control.

International media say the country is on the brink of civil war – with hundreds if not thousands of people already killed in the violence.

However, the picture on the ground suggests that the rebels’ version of events is dominating the media coverage.

Just days ago these parents feared for their children's lives - today they are taking their pictures in front of the tanks.

The desire to laugh in the face of danger is even stronger among journalists. And the conflict in Libya is providing a perfect setting for it.

On TV screens, Bengazhi may look like the center of the rebel resistance but in reality it looks more like a seaside resort than a conflict zone. Hotels are fully booked with journalists as residents go about their daily lives. Here boys are looking for new things to play with – toy guns are in ample supply.

Some reports sent from Benghazi refer to the situation in eastern Libya as war. Not a conflict zone, where rebels are engaged in sporadic and isolated pitched battles with pro-Gadaffi forces, but an all-out war.

Jenan Moussa was one of the first reporters to arrive in Benghazi. For several days, she's been traveling with the rebels about 200 kilometers west of Benghazi. At some point, the pro-government forces opened fire at her crew - a focal point of her report.

"There is a war going on and whether we like it or not there is a frontline and there are people with guns and there are two sides fighting," Moussa says.

News channels know that gunfire and explosions make for strong TV, but they can also help to blow things out of proportion. And with journalists unable to report freely from Tripoli and other Gaddafi-controlled parts of Libya, some can find themselves sucked-in by the rebels’ side of the story.

"Rebels are just opening up to journalists, they just love them and just whenever they take one city we go with them and they we go into the other city," Moussa says.

But reporters need rebels, too. Here, in the opposition's press center in Benghazi, internet access is unrestricted and the coffee available 24 hours. The message is on the wall and can sometimes find its way into reports.

"Gaddafi put a price on each journalist’s head so we are really in danger when we move, because we don’t trust drivers, we have to be within our small circle. So you as a human being tell me how could you be…I mean objectivity here is human rights," Abdallah Kamal, an independent reporter.

With rebels professing their readiness to fight Gaddafi's regime to the bitter end, no wonder news reports are carrying predictions of imminent civil war. Yet, as the rebels' inability to mount a fully-fledged offensive becomes more apparent, so is the unbalanced nature of the coverage.


32° 7' 0.0012" N, 20° 4' 0.0012" E