Sunday, November 27, 2011

Libyan media at crossroads

Libyan media at crossroads
Unlike uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, which succeeded to overthrow their leaders through relatively peaceful disobedience, Libyan people had to resort to arms to get rid of Muammar Gaddafi and his regime. They opted for an armed struggle to fight and die for freedom rather than live without it. Thus far, the popular social uprising in Libya has without doubt been the most violent of all the revolts, which are shaking other Arab countries such as Yemen and Syria.

The price of the armed struggle in Libya was high and the humanitarian effects were immense. According to available estimations, which were given by some Libyan current interim officials and UN organisations, at least 50,000 people were killed in Libya war, 50,000 others injured, some 4,000 more missing, over 100,000 left the country and 243,000 internally displaced.
Though the sacrifice was huge so was the gain. After 42 years of suppression, the Libyan people set themselves free from a dictatorial regime after eight months of fighting, which size and speed were extraordinary.
All efforts are now focused on how to translate the new spirit of free Libya and how to win the challenges of making the people forget the wounds of the past and believe in the gains of the future. That applies on media sector.
It is not an easy job as the biggest gab that Libyans should fill is the vacuum in citizens’ understanding of what is taking place.
At least 16 Libyan TV channels and 30 Radio stations are currently operational in inside and outside the country as well as more than 200 local newspapers scattered all Libya regions. At first glance such diversity sounds healthy after decades of one oriented, controlled and heavily censored media which only job was to glorify Gaddafi and his accomplishments.
However the reality of the media sector in Libya remains un-organised and lapses into uncertainty despite some encouraging signs.  Most journalists and media workers that Doha Centre for Media Freedom, DCMF, met in Tripoli are resentful about lack of clarity and skeptical about the future of the media sector.
Some claim they have been punished and sidelined because they served during Gaddafi's era, others are talking about attempts by some heavyweight new key players to monopolise the sector.
Above all, the Libyans remain unable to agree, at least for now, on one body that should have the authority of regulating the sector. For some it should be the duty of local councils of each city or region, for others it should be the task of the National Transitional Council, NTC. They also need to agree on media priorities and whose voices should be given the platform priority youth, tribes, religion or others.
The situation, however, is not that bleak as Libyans are intensively engaged in open debates and discussions and share the eagerness to break with the practices of the past and are deliberating their way through to define areas of focus, mandates, and key issues.
Despite differences on practical steps on how to proceed with reforms, Libyan people, media workers and politicians share the same ambitions and objectives such as the willingness to frame the new free media through a credibility-building action that should take into consideration the country’s aspiration, sensitivities and war grievances based on openness, truthfulness and tolerance,  that media personnel's' freedom and dignity should be preserved, that there should be no loyalty to the status quo, that the new media should be a powerful deterrent to any potential dictatorship, that the new open media should be capable of serving in educating the citizenry  and allow citizens to monitor their representatives, and that the law should not penalise journalists with the courage to challenge in public what others reject only in private for genuine desires.
They also realise that the skill levels among Libyan journalists are currently under-prepared for such a change and that their media need a range of editorial, technical, administrative and ethic support.
In brief, the new Libyan authorities have major task to work out a mechanism to regulate  the imperatives and ensure  citizens that their objectives are indisputable and that the changes for a much better media in Libya is coming through collective work that focuses primarily on defining a flexible and adaptable approach despite divergent opinions.

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