Media during the Qaddafi era was a family means of controlling and directing the masses. There were four TV stations and a similar number of newspapers which were owned and controlled by the “great” leader’s children and favoured kinsmen. Libyans who fled persecution found in the diaspora a breathing space to set up less glamorous media posts in Arabic and English, such as websites/radio in London and the USA, that proved to be more effective and impact making than those of the regime with budgets and corruption in millions. Qaddafi and his lynch men especially the head of the security services, Mousa Kousa, saw that a looming danger had to be stopped by any means including jamming centres and hiring foreign technical expertise from east and west to do that.
When the revolution broke out on the evening of the 15th of February 2011 in Benghazi, the regime reverted quickly to old habits by liquidating and arresting activists all over Libya. At the same time, they carried on monopolizing his media mouthpieces and advocating violence against the revolutionaries, depriving them of any voice. This necessitated alternatives and ultimately led to an explosion in the number of media outlets in the hands of the revolutionaries culminating in more than 170 newspapers and 20 TV satellites stations. Now the revolution triumphed in Libya with almost 50 thousand casualties. However, there remains a threat that Qaddafi’s immediate family and cronies around the region are bent on sabotaging thesuccess the Libyans have made in the last year post liberation. The future will be determined by the influence exerted by media, as we have seen in the case of Libya where Qaddafi was defeated primarily by Libyans on the ground and NATO jets and Aljazeera and its likes in the skies. Also, the local media post revolution impacted on ordinary Libyans and made them cast their vote against the Islamist parties in an unprecedented move that shocked the Muslim Brotherhood and surprised the rest of the world.
Faraj Najem is a widely respected Libyan author, lecturer, historian, political commentator and advisor on Libyan matters, and a leading member of the Libyan diaspora in the UK. He has acted as a special advisor to the British Prime Minister and the Foreign Office as well as many colleges, universities and think tanks in Britain. He is a regular interviewee on Aljazeera, BBC, CNN, SKY etc. His book ‘Tribe, Islam and State’ is recognised as the seminal work on the tribal history of Libya. Following the February 2011 revolution in Libya, he founded the Forum for Democratic Libya with others, advocating “active citizenship & democratic participation” and served in the Commission for Advice & Support to National Transitional Council of Libya. Born in Benghazi, Libya, he came to the UK as a student in 1983. He soon found out that he was seen by the Qaddafi’s regime as “persona non grata”. Since the revolution, he has returned to Libya on many occasions helping out with media appearances defending the military action against Qaddafi’s troops and moderating the various revolutionaries’ forces on the battle fields across Libya and most recently to host a series of seminars right across the country on electoral and constitutional reform. He is currently running for election to the Libyan National Assembly.