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Arab Press Network (APN)
Friday, 7 September, 2007

Can Media Owned by Qadhafi’s Son be Free?

Arab Press Network (APN)

07 September 2007

Can Media Owned by Gaddafi’s Son be Free?

Two new private dailies, Oea and Cyrene, hit the Libyan newsstands on 20 August 2007. Does this, together with the recent launch of the private Libyan television channel Al-Libyah, herald the beginning of a change on the country's media scene?
Oea and Cyrene (the Greek names of the cities of Tripoli and Benghazi), which were launched on 20 August 2007, are printed on blue paper to distinguish themselves from the official papers, which are printed on green paper. They also have a different, smarter, layout.

In August, the Al-Libyah TV channel - the first non-governmental media outlet to appear in Libya - was launched. Is this a sign of change on the Libyan media scene?

Both Oea and Cyrene are owned by Al-Ghad, the same company that owns Al-Libya. Al-Ghad belongs to Seif el-Islam Gaddafi, the son of Colonel Muammer Gaddafi, whose regime has controlled the Libyan media scene for the past 38 years.

"Those who know the nature of Gaddafi's regime also know that they cannot be cheated by the 'reformist simulation' of Seif el-Islam," Farag Buasha, a Libyan freelance journalist exiled in Germany told APN. "How can we pretend those outlets are not owned by the regime when they belong to Gaddafi's son?".
According to Buasha, the colonel's son spends millions of dollars taken from public funds as he wishes.

Some observers stress that the new dailies have criticised members of the government, such as the Prime Minister Baghdadi Mahmoudi, and covered topics considered taboo in Libya. The director of Al-Ghad, Mohamed Bussifi, who is a former civil servant, said in news reports he was ready to "push criticism as far as possible". However, he also added that he does not intend to cross the "red line of the leader."

Buasha thinks that the media outlets owned by the "the future heir of the throne" are only tackling economical issues and making the ministers who are mere "workers in the Gaddafi plant" responsible. "These media are speaking of abstract reforms and are avoiding the real sensitive issues such as Gaddafi and his family, the country's oil revenues and human rights violations, which have lead to the death of 1,200 political prisoners in the Bouslim prison, to give a few examples." Buasha told APN.

Buasha thinks the establishment of a free and independent press in Libya is hopeless as long as Gaddafi's totalitarian regime remains in place.

In September 2006, a delegation from the international press freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders delegation visited Libya for the first time. In a report from 2007 the organisation stated: "The media are still government-controlled propaganda mouthpieces". The very rare journalists who have dared to express themselves freely in the past 38 years have all disappeared or been jailed.

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