Libya is drowning in blood. A vivid picture of awful massacres in Benghazi, hundreds of innocent people killed, military attacking protesters, and a monstrous picture of the country’s leader Muammar Gaddafi who was said to be able to use chemical weapons against the citizens, was created by foreign media organizations, among them, Al-Jazeera. However, the real situation in the country could be quite different from what has been reported so far.
Saint Petersburg Center of Middle Eastern Studies (meast.ru) has recently published the notes by the eyewitnesses of the recent events – Russian and Ukrainian specialists currently working in Libya. The latest data was received on Feb. 26, 2011.
According to the witnesses, the situation in the country is stable. After the Gaddafi’s one hour long speech, there was some kind of euphoria and inspired people were celebrating the victory.
Libyan authorities regard the protests as a conspiracy of al-Qaeda with the support of Qatar satellite channel Al-Jazeera in order to split the country and arrange a zone of instability in Libya as it was done in Iraq. The government stated that innocent young people were used by the extremists to destabilize the country.
Throughout this conflict Al-Jazeera appeared to incite the violence by apparently distorting information. Eyewitnesses of the events, who tried to contact Al-Jazeera and tell the truth about the “bombings”, were not put on air.
As the Guardian has previously reported, Qatar is unapologetically pro-US, which is unusual in a region where rulers often denounce Washington to domestic audiences. It hosted US forces during the Iraq war. Some say the Al-Jazeera station represents a big step forward for Arab democracy, which Washington advocates, the Guardian reported.
Although Washington objects to some of al-Jazeera’s coverage, including that of al-Qaida, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Iraq, it has not created any serious problems so far.
Hafez al-Mirazi, an Egyptian who runs the channel’s Washington bureau, and who previously worked for Voice Of America, said: “The White House has been spoilt by Fox News. The current administration is unusually sensitive to any criticism. The situation now is ‘either you’re just like Fox, or you’re against us’.”
According to Wikileaks cables that refer to the documents of the U.S. embassy in Qatar, the country extensively uses Al-Jazeera as the most valuable political and diplomatic tool.
One should note that Al-Jazeera has previously wanted to enter the U.S. broadcasting market. However, the first attempt taken in 2006 failed. According to the media reports, failed negotiations almost buried the channel’s efforts to reach the screens in the U.S. Coincidently enough, after the beginning of the riots in the Middle East, Al-Jazeera got a chance to quietly enter the U.S. market.
An American channel Link TV has granted Al-Jazeera 12 hours of airtime every day. They said they did it to provide American viewers with an opportunity to follow the Egyptian crisis in the new format, not polished by Western point of view.
After all the above mentioned details, actions of the Egyptian government that sent Al-Jazeera reporters out of the country during the protests could be seen in a different angle.
Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam has previously also accused mass media in disinformation and a campaign against the Libyan government. He said it was one of the biggest problems. According to him, the media was trying to show that Libya was on fire of a big revolution. He stated it was not true and the country was still united.
Cuba’s foreign minister has also accused U.S. media of inciting violence and military aggression in Libya. Bruno Rodriguez says press reports out of the North African country have been contradictory, and he accuses unnamed North American politicians and media groups of contributing to the bloodshed. Rodriguez sent a statement to journalists on Wednesday saying that “some North American politicians and media groups are inciting violence, military aggression and foreign intervention” in Libya, AP reported.
The hysteria created by media scared Libyan people. American bombings of Tripoli and Benghazi in 1986 are still fresh in their memory. It was not a coincidence that Gaddafi gave his keynote speech at the ruins of his former residence, bombed by Americans in 1986, when they decided by one stroke to eliminate the leader of the Libyan revolution and create the change of power in Libya. Then they failed to kill Gaddafi. He survived, but lost his daughter in the blast.
It was the tough stance of the USSR that prevented further aggression. However, the Soviet Union does not exist anymore and residents of Tripoli were really worried about a new U.S. and NATO invasion. Many are ready to resist, but objectively, taking into account Libyan plain relief, U.S. and NATO aircraft will have absolute superiority over the Libyan troops. Most likely Libya won’t be able to repel aggression itself.
On Feb. 23, 2011, a press conference took place in the Libyan Foreign Ministry with the participation of all foreign ambassadors (The U.S. ambassador was not present as he left the country before the New Year – but there was his female deputy).
The press conference was live on Libyan television. The police, army and local authorities were at their work places. There was no chaos. And it was said that in a few days everything would go back to normal. It turned out that it was only military warehouses that were bombed near Benghazi. Those warehouses were seized by rebels. The attack was conducted to prevent dispersing of the weapons throughout the country. It was announced that those who turned out to have those weapons must return it within a three-day term.
The Deputy Minister at the Foreign Ministry invited the Ambassador of Qatar to come to the briefing, and he personally promised to show him the place of “air” strikes in the area that according to Al-Jazeera was the place of particularly fierce battles. However, instead of coming to the meeting, the ambassador left the country.
According to latest information, the atmosphere in Tripoli and the western region is calm and stable, probably because Gaddafi managed to negotiate with the tribes. Banks and most of the shops are open.
On Wednesday, Libyan mobile operators sent texts that life was back to normal, and it was necessary to return to duties – to go to work, open shops, etc.
The majority of the population still supports the government. Pro-government demonstrations have always been more numerous.
The foreigners who were not able to leave the country before, are now not worried about their security and have no plans to go back home. They were able to contact their relatives through Skype. Many of them highlighted the role of mass media in creating panic among people.
See also the related article on today’s 4th Media: Massive Information War against Libya for US/West Military Intervention?
The author Anna Varfolomeeva is an international reporter at the 4th Media. She is also a candidate for master’s degree from Tsinghua School of Journalism and Communication in Beijing, China.