Whenever news topics become scarce, and continuously reporting on ISIS or Ebola starts to feel monotonous, MENA journalists often turn to their in-case-of-slow-news-day topic; Libya. Specifically, how Libya has become a failure, a monster, a pale shadow of the wonderful thriving nation it was once. [ironic citation needed]
I’ve read a lot of inaccurate, irresponsible, and at times, just plain yellow journalistic articles this past month. The structure is always the same; Heftar vs. Fajr Libya, Liberals vs. Islamists, an apocalyptic-style narrative fraught with gun-toting fighters and a few quotes from arbitrary citizens. Writing about Libya’s current conflict is a piece of cake, really. Factually correct? Meh, who cares, it’s not like they understand English anyways.
Possibly the most damning of these was an interview done by world-famous journalist Christiane Amanpour about Abdul-Hakim Belhadj. “He is the man who many say is the key to making peace in Libya,” she garbled.
“Who many say“? I live in Libya and I’ve never heard anyone claim that about him. In fact, he’s been keeping a very low profile during this conflict. And if by “making peace”, she means stopping the crooked militias he has on a leash from destroying the country, then yeah, I can see her point.
It’s exactly this kind of bizarre reporting that has made many Libyans lose faith in journalists. People like Abdulsalam Mismary, Salwa Bugaighis and Tawfik Bensaud could have been key figures in making peace in Libya. But while they were brutally murdered, the people actively funding militias while living outside the country are the ones getting interviewed. Of course, the activists get limelight after their horrific deaths, but only as narrative tools to further make money/publicity off of the chaos in Libya.
And try as they might to be objective, Libyans have already categorized these journalists as ‘reliable, trustworthy sources’ or ‘dirty, dirty liars’, depending on whatever bias they present. And oftentimes it’s not just subjective reporting but downright deception. Examples include the use of the term ‘Tobruk’s parliament’ in reference to the Libyan House of Representatives, which gives the impression that there is more than one official government body (news flash: there isn’t), or extreme variations in the numbers of those killed and injured in clashes.
And no matter how often these journalists reiterate the point that the conflict in Libya is “complex”, it doesn’t seem to prevent them from writing up an over-simplified analysis, presumably to dumb down the story enough for their Western audiences to grasp.
In order to understand to the conflict in Libya, you have to go back almost four years ago to the beginning of the revolution, when the first alliances were forged. And even then, you won’t be able to see the full picture if you don’t understand the nuanced world of Libya’s societal, tribal and regional history.
Angry ranting aside, I decided to try out my own writing skills in a ‘Libya Op-Ed’, in the tradition of these shoddy pieces (if only to console myself with venting).
Revolution Journal | Oct 6 – It’s another bleak, dark day in Libya as clashes continue. Heftar’s forces fight in one part of the country, Fajr Libya’s forces in another part, while something’s going on in that Southern part with all the sand.
Our sources can confirm almost with certainty that weapons are being used in the fighting, as tweets of ‘BOOM’ are being posted on a social media platform known as Twitter. We have also been able to discern from this site that the fighting is concentrated mainly in the key cities of Libya, namely Benghazi and Tripoli.
The fighting is clearly drawn along ideological lines. Heftar’s lack of a beard indicates his liberal leanings, while cries of Allahu Akbar from Fajr Libya’s forces betray their Islamists loyalties. The flame wars in the comment’s section of Libyan Facebook pages are a worrying indicator of the dangers of this crisis.
I spoke to one of my Libyan businessman friends about the conflict. “The situation is very difficult,” he said to us through Skype, from his McMansion in Britain. “The thuwar, known for their level-headed thinking and careful war tactics, are doing their best for Libya, but no one seems to appreciate that. The obvious solution here is to give them more money.”
Another Libyan city has begun to play a role in this crisis; Tobruk. According to its Wikipedia page, Tobruk is a port city in Eastern Libya. In recent months, an authority calling itself the ‘House of Representatives’ has appeared in this city, much to the puzzlement of Libya experts everywhere.
“For God’s sake, we were elected!,” typed one representative of this supposed government, in response to a Facebook message. “We couldn’t convene in Benghazi because it’s not safe. Do you people not read the news?”
After some in-depth Google researching, it appears that there have been a string of assassinations and violence in Benghazi, dating as far back as 2012. We reached out to one Twitter user from this besieged city.
“lol yeah, it totally sucks,” typed user @libyateenqueen2003, clearly distraught. “i haven’t been able to shop for 2 weeks now. ”
The international community has been vocal in their condemnation of fighting in Libya. “We call on every armed person to put their weapons down now,” said one UN representative, for the 12th time this month. He later told Revolution Journal in a private interview, “There have been some successes in the Libyan conflict. For one thing, the oil production is increasing, which is fabulous news for everyone. Our biggest concern now is that the fighting will extend to the oil fields, which might prompt us to actually do something. We can’t stress enough that no measure is too drastic to protect our fragile economy. Oh, yeah, and the people too, of course.”
As we’ve seen in Iraq and Afghanistan (and virtually every other armed conflict in history), the presence of weapons and a lack of strong authority are usually not helpful when trying to rebuild a country. The meddling of other countries in Libyan affairs is also a contributing factor to the crumbling nation Libya has become. [No one from these other countries was available for comment]
Only time will tell what will happen to this oil rich country as extremism and instability take root [insert overused Iraq cliche here]. With every other horrible thing going on on the planet, we have to ask ourselves, does anyone even care about this forgettable African nation?”
[Just a gentle yet firm reminder that the above faux article is SATIRE, i.e. I’m making fun of other articles. It’s not meant to be taken seriously. Seriously.]