Free Libya gets its own satellite channel, hosted by — you guessed it — Qatar.
For the first time in its history, Libya is getting its own independent satellite channel.
A group of Libyans from abroad and inside the country is setting up the new station to broadcast news and commentary about Libya for a Libyan audience, with the aim of countering Libyan state propaganda and promoting dialogue about the country’s future after Muammar al-Gaddafi, the brutal leader whose four-plus decades in power appear to be drawing to a rapid close.
The channel, to be called simply Libya TV, launches this week in Doha after less than two weeks of hurried preparation. Its founder is the avuncular Mahmud Shammam, a well-known Libyan expatriate journalist who edits Foreign Policy‘s Arabic edition.
Libya TV’s initial team of 19 young staffers was assembled partly over Facebook, Shammam says. In mid-March, he put out a call for volunteers on his page and immediately got more than 200 requests to join. “One woman even said her life would mean nothing if she did not participate,” Shammam told me. Another new staffer left Ajdabiya, an eastern city that until the last few days was occupied by Gaddafi’s fighters, to join the network in Doha. The channel had to buy him a new set of clothes when he arrived.
Shammam, a staunch secularist, has long been an outspoken critic of Gaddafi’s regime, dating back to his days as a student activist at Michigan State University, where he squared off against Gaddafi supporters led by Musa Kusa, now the regime’s foreign minister and a key member of its inner circle. (“He’s not stupid,” Shammam says of Kusa. “He knows the regime is collapsing.”)
Returning home to Libya after college, Shammam got into trouble after participating in the January 1976 student demonstrations in Benghazi, and left the country in March of that year, never to return. He has spent the years since as a journalist and activist, with stints at a number of different outlets, including nearly 10 years at the helm of Newsweek‘s Arabic edition. He’s a frequent guest on Al Jazeera, where he was a board member for four years, and is close to Libyan opposition leaders both in and outside the country.
For the first month, Shammam hopes to broadcast four hours of original programming each day, including a 20-minute news bulletin and a half-hour talk show, and then extend it thereafter. He is keen to give Libya’s young people, who have been at the forefront of the uprising, a prominent voice at the station. “The youth who liberate Libya can run it,” he says. “If we don’t let them take responsibility now, we’re going to be in trouble.”
According to Mohamed al-Akari, the new station’s Tripoli-born manager, Libya TV has set up a studio in Benghazi and another in London, in addition to its headquarters in Doha, and has correspondents throughout Libya.
While editorially independent, the channel could prove an important outlet for the revolutionaries, especially if the drama of the uprising fades and the conversation shifts to less visually gripping topics like constitutional reform, political development, and education. International coverage of Tunisia and Egypt has dropped precipitously in the wake of the respective departures of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak.
In the early days of the uprising, Libyans set up the National Transitional Council (NTC), a body describing itself as “the political face of the revolution.” The purpose of the council, a senior NTC representative told me, was to combat the regime’s message that a post-Gaddafi Libya would mean chaos, tribalism, and civil war, as well as to “liberate our country, to speak to the world in one voice, and to mobilize support for the resistance.”
One of the key challenges of a post-Gaddafi Libya will be combating the years of “indoctrination” Libyan children faced, he told me, noting the wide gulf between a highly educated, worldly diaspora that is eager to help rebuild the country and a bruised, battered population inside Libya that has known only Gaddafi for 42 years.
“We need a heavy dosage of dialogue,” says Shammam, speaking for the new satellite channel. “We want Libyans to think about the future: the rule of law, civil society, a new constitution. We want to promote a culture of forgiving.”
Libya TV is being funded primarily by donations from Libyan businessmen abroad, including one $250,000 contribution from a wealthy Libyan donor in Britain. The state of Qatar, in addition to agreeing to host the network on its soil, has turned over the facilities and technical staff of Al-Rayyan, a local channel focused on cultural programming.
The Associated Press has news from Zawiya, Misrata and Tripoli.
• Zawiya – as we reported earlier army units and militiamen loyal to Muammar Gaddafi attacked a mosque where protesters were holding an anti-government sit-in. Ten people were killed and around 150 wounded, according to a doctor there. Rebels had been camped at Souq mosque for days. Soldiers opened fire with automatic weapons and hit the minaret with an anti-aircraft gun, a witness said. Zawiya, which is around 40 miles west of Tripoli, is a key city near an oil port and refineries. After the attack, thousands of people rallied in Martyrs’ Square by the mosque shouting “leave, leave” in reference to Gaddafi, according to the news agency.
• Misrata – Gaddafi loyalists battled with demonstrators who had seized control of the airport in Libya’s third largest city, which is 125 miles east of Tripoli along the coast. Rebels claimed control of the city yesterday and today militiamen with rocket-propelled grenades and mortars fired at a line of them guarding the airport. During the fighting, the airport’s defenders seized an anti-aircraft gun used by the militias and turned it against them, according to AP. A medical official said two people were killed, one from each side, and five wounded. He added: “Now Misrata is totally under control of the people, but we are worried because we squeezed between Sirte and Tripoli, which are strongholds of Gaddafi.”
• Tripoli – Pro-Gaddafi militiamen – a mix of Libyans and foreign mercenaries – have clamped down on the city since the Libyan leader went on state TV on Tuesday night and called on his supporters to take back the streets. Residents say militiamen roam Tripoli’s main avenues, firing the air, while neighbourhood watch groups have barricaded side streets trying to keep the fighters out and protesters lay low.
• Ahmed Gadhaf al-Dam, a cousin and close aide to the Libyan leader, announced he had defected to Egypt in protest against Gaddafi’s crackdown against protesters. Gaddafi’s son Saif claimed today that the reported death tolls have been exaggerated, although he didn’t provide his own figure. In a press conference aired on state TV, he said the number killed by police and the army had been limited and “talking about hundreds and thousands [killed] is a joke”.
Eman Al-Obeidi’s fiancee has spoken earlier on Al Jazeera saying that he was already engaged to her and that they have performed the marriage ceremony with the Shiekh. Although she was not present, and her whereabouts remain unknown, Eman’s fiancee and family arranged this ceremony in her honor (See note below).
He also stated that he was proud to be married to Eman. His name is Faraj Ghaithi. The families had an understanding that they will be married in the future.
Below is a video of the celebrations that took place. The women are chanting “Oh Eman oh Eman, we put your picture in the square” They are showing that they support her.
Flashing the car’s taillights and honking the horn indicate a joyous occasion. This tradition takes place during weddings in many Arab countries.
Her fiancee, Faraj is shown at 0:22.
Al-Aan channel which interviewed Eman’s cousin, also called Tobruk, Eman’s home town to confirm that the marriage ceremony did take place.
Eman’s fiancee, Faraj Ghaithi
An Islamic marriage ceremony can take place with representatives from both sides (from the bride and groom) to give their consent. It is understood that Eman has previously agreed to marry Faraj, and that there was an ‘understanding’ between the two families.
We are tracking the latest developments to keep you updated on the situation on the ground. There are interactive maps located in the Protest map page to keep up with the latest movements. Also check out the featured twitters on the sidebar. On the Go? -Follow us on Twitter @Feb17Libya for the same live updates.
All updates are in Libyan local time (GMT +2)
6:05AM: The Youth Coalition of the February 17th Revolution in Tripoli have released to us a declaration in support of the National Transitional Council and called out to all the sons of Tripoli, the scholars, dignitaries and national guards to be ready to fill up the ranks for the start of Libya’s new beginning. Read it here.
4:38AM: Amnesty International says Gaddafi’s government is sweeping up bloggers, journalists and even teenage protesters as it tries to crush the rebellion in Libya. The human rights group says it knows of 30 people who have disappeared. It fears Gaddafi’s forces have taken them to his strongholds in Western Libya. Many of the detainees are well-known dissidents. But four teenage boys were seized as they and other protesters swarmed into a military compound on Feb. 20 in Benghazi.
4:05AM: Reports coming in that Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa is currently in Tunisia on a private visit:
4:02AM: Maher’s Zain new music video, inspired by the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and across the Arab world:
3:24AM: Libyan television broadcast on Tuesday what it said was live footage of leader Muammar Gaddafi’s son Khamis greeting supporters at his father’s compound in Tripoli, according to Reuters. A TV anchor said the images, which showed a man with a striking resemblance to Khamis Gaddafi, refuted reports in the Arab media and on the Internet that he was killed by a disaffected air force pilot who flew his plane into Gaddafi’s Tripoli compound. Read more here.
Libyan officials say such reports are part of a
“There will be times when our safety is not directly threatened but our interests and values are”. In case you missed the Presidential Address:
Libya Live Latest
12:41pm: A BBC contact in Misrata says there has been “strong bombing” in the direction of the port. He believes Libyan warships may be shelling the port “because this is the only remaining portal for international aid”. There is no way of verifying the information.
12:25pm: A presenter on Libya’s state-run Al-Libiyah TV channel is insisting that “nothing is happening”, that “our state is functioning” and “one day Libyans will laugh at these events”, BBC Monitoring reports.
12:20pm:The Guardian’s Chris McGrealtweets: “watched as #Libya rebels beat hurried retreat after strong govt resistance near Sirte. still relying on air strikes.”
Al Jazeera’s Anita McNaught on the latests from Libya
12:05pm: Libya will soon be “liberated” from Gaddafi, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said, adding that the strongman could give up power under an African Union proposal. Frattini said on La7 television:
“I think that Libya will be liberated quickly and that the situation will be resolved in short notice.”
12:03pm: Tunisia’s official news agency says Libya’s Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa has arrived in Tunisia for a “private visit.” TAP news agency says Koussa crossed into the country on Monday through Ras Jedir border crossing. It quotes Tunisia’s foreign ministry as saying the Libyan foreign minister was on a “private visit” but did not elaborate.
11:57pm: Libyan state TV says “colonial and crusader aggressors” hit civilian and military targets including a leather factory. There is no independent confirmation of the strike.
11:49pm: Libyan rebel radio is meanwhile appealing to people in the western regions to join the revolution, BBC Monitoring reports. “Do not wait for the fall of Gaddafi… do it now,” a presenter says. It is also calling on religious scholars to encourage the young to join. The station referred to Gaddafi as “the tyrant, Draculibya” – a play on the word Dracula.
11:46pm: Libyan state TV is now quoting a military official as saying that coalition forces have bombed the town of Surman, 70km (43 miles) west of Tripoli.
11:44pm: Mr Kaim called on the West to instead work for peace in Libya. “The solution is rather for all the parties to be involved in peacemaking and to become peacemakers,” he told reporters in Tripoli. “I would like especially to call upon on the American President, Barack Obama, and all the other Western leaders within the EU and outside the EU to be peacemakers not warmongers, and not to push Libyans towards a civil war and to more death and destruction in Libya.”
11:43pm: Libya’s Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim has issued the following message to Western leaders meeting in London on Tuesday: “Libya is an independent country with full sovereignty and the Libyan people are the only ones who have the right to decide the future of the country. Planning the division of Libya or imposing a foreign political system on Libya designed by foreign governments is not acceptable.”
11:39pm: Libya’s two state television channels are showing video of what they call “civilian victims” of the “Crusader colonialist aggression”. BBC Monitoring reports that the tone of coverage on both channels is a mixture of scaremongering and sheer defiance, with a presenter on al-Libiya insisting that “nothing is happening”, that Libya is “fine” and “our state is functioning”, and that “one day Libyans will laugh at these events”. He repeatedly states: “Things are going well”.
11:33pm:Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt tweets: “Day of preparations for London Libya conference tomorrow. Military steps good. Key also a political and humanitarian offensive.”
11:18pm: Forces loyal to Gaddafi have carried out a campaign of forced disappearances to try to crush opposition to his rule, Amnesty International has said. The human rights group said it had details of more than 30 cases of individuals who had disappeared since before the uprising began in mid-February. Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa director Malcolm Smart said: “It appears that there is a systematic policy to detain anyone suspected of opposition to Col Gaddafi’s rule, hold them incommunicado, and transfer them to his strongholds in western Libya. Given the circumstances of their enforced disappearance, there is every reason to believe that these individuals are at serious risk of torture and ill-treatment. Col Gaddafi must halt this outrageous campaign and order his forces to abide by international law.”
11:03pm: The Libyan government has said comments made by Gaddafi on 17 March about the people of Benghazi were “mistranslated”. In the radio address, which was used by Western powers to justify their military intervention, he was reported to have told residents of the rebel-held city: “Prepare yourselves from tonight. We will find you in your closets… We will show no mercy and no pity to them.” But officials told a news conference in Tripoli that the Brother Leader was addressing only “terrorists and al-Qaeda affiliates, and not the citizens and the people of the city of Benghazi”. He described them as “the dear and the beloved”, the officials added.
10:53pm: More on the comments made by the head of the Libyan rebel council, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, on France 2 TV: “After the victory, we shall try Gaddafi in Libya for all the crimes he has committed,” he said. “The Libyan people have chosen this path, a difficult choice – that of confronting a tyrant. We shall try to build a free and democratic country, which respects human rights and changes in government.” Mr Abdul Jalil, who is expected to attend the conference on Libya in London on Tuesday, thanked the international community for its decisive assistance, while adding that more needed to be done. “We have an urgent need for light arms because fighting is being forced upon us.”
10:45pm: There have been nine large explosions in Tajoura, 30km east of Tripoli, a witness tells the AFP news agency.
Citizens of Benghazi look at photos of dead or missing persons in Liberation square in Benghazi
10:36pm: Vice-Adm Gortney says the Libyan rebel forces are not robust and the gains they have made on the battlefield in recent days are tenuous. The US is not directly supporting the rebels, but they have clearly achieved a military benefit from the coalition’s air strikes, he adds.
10:33pm: Vice-Adm Gortney adds: “We are paying particular attention to the lines of communication, the command and control, the ability to resupply those forces that are most actively attacking civilians. What’s the difference between this and another conflict? The target types are not different, it’s where we are trying to go after them that is different. We are not leaving significant firepower. Anywhere that we can see ammunition storage facilities, things of that nature, we are going after those as well. The targeting objectives from the very first strikes remain the same.”
10:28pm: Asked about the hasty retreat of Gaddafi’s forces, Vice-Adm Gortney says: “[We do not know] whether it is confusion, whether their supply lines have been over-extended, but we saw a pretty significant shift.”
Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel Hamid making a hasty escape in Nawfaliya amid fear of approaching pro-Gaddafi forces.
10:16pm: In the last 24 hours, coalition strike aircraft have continued to go after “targets of opportunity” on the ground in Libya, such as regime forces hit near Misrata, Sirte and Ras Lanuf, Vice-Admiral Gortney says. Six TLAM cruise missiles were launched from the sea against the headquarters of the 32nd brigade, one of Col Gaddafi’s most loyal units and one that has actively attacked civilians, he adds. Ammunition stores and bunkers were struck around Tripoli and Sabha. The coalition has flown 178 sorties, the majority of which were strike-related.
10:14pm: A UN sanctions committee will add new names of individuals and companies to a list of Gaddafi’s Libyan regime facing an assets freeze and travel ban, diplomats said. Gaddafi and his immediate family already top a list of 18 individuals banned from leaving the country and 13 people and five entities whose international assets have been frozen by two UN Security Council resolutions.
Sanctions committee chairman Jose Filipe Cabral, Portugal’s UN envoy, said more names are almost certain to be added. Members of the committee have already said they will be proposing new names, Cabral told the 15-nation Security Council.
10:08pm: Vice-Adm Gortney adds: “”We still have not received a single confirmed of civilian casualties caused by the coalition. We will continue to be just as precise as we can in keeping up the pressure on regime forces, while protecting innocent civilians. I am quite confident that in and around Misrata… We have been and we will be effective at hitting exactly what we are aiming at.”
10:06pm: Vice-Adm William Gortney, director of the US Joint Staff, tells a news conference at the Pentagon: “We now assess that rebel forces are in control of Ajdabiya and have pushed west to within 80 miles of Sirte. We believe the regime is preparing to dig in at Sirte, setting up a number of checkpoints and placing tanks throughout the city. Likewise for Zintan, where we assess the regime is preparing to reinforce existing positions.”
9:55pm: On the eve of a 35-nation conference in London to discuss the situation in Libya, US President Barack Obama is to attempt to explain the US role in the Western air campaign Col Gaddafi in a televised address at 0030 BST (2330 GMT/1930 EST). Mr Obama is expected to hail Nato’s decision to take over responsibility for the operation in Libya as proof that he is making good on his pledge that the US would play only a limited role.
“Leaving #Mistra to sound of heavy machine gunfire, govt minders anxious to turn us around back to #Tripoli…
Couldnt get into centre of #Misrata so impossible to make any informed judgment of who controls what. Army apprears dominant on outskirts…
#Misrata: tanks hidden under trees, artillery stood in open fields, soldiers in vehcles cud b seen hiding in storefrnts, soldiers on rooftps…
#Misrata: streets deserted except for 100 or so Gadhafi supporters driven in to put on display for our benefit…”
9:24pm: Gaddafi will go on trial in Libya “after victory” by rebel forces, the head of the rebels’ national council said in an interview broadcast by French television. Mustafa Abdel Jalil told France 2 journalists in Benghazi:
“After the victory we will try Gaddafi in Libya for all the crimes he has committed.”
A rebel fighter carries ammunition as rebels advance west towards Sirte
9:17pm: Mr Levy also denies there are divisions in Libya that will result in a stalemate. “I believe that the risk of division is overestimated by most of the commentators. I believe that the so-called rebels have strong friends and strong roots in Tripoli and Sirte. Last night, I spoke to someone from Sirte on the telephone who told me that the city was much more than we had believed already on the side of the rebels. All of them are wishing and dreaming to get rid of this dictatorship.” He says it will be a matter of days, not weeks. “Don’t forget it is an army mainly composed of mercenaries paid to kill, but not born to kill. If they have a chance to get out of the way, they will.”
9:13pm: Bernard-Henri Levy avoids saying whether or not he told French President Nicolas Sarkozy to recognise the rebel Transitional National Council as the sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people: “I don’t know if I told him. But it was my opinion. When I came back from Benghazi, it was crystal clear for me that the only legitimate representatives of Libya today, and of the whole of Libya, was these guys. They are westerners with Libyan roots and western roots, and are bridges between England, France, America and Libya. They are democrats and secular, and opposed to any sort of terrorism.”
9:07pm: The French philosopher, Bernard Henri-Levy, tells the BBC about the Libyan rebels: “I met the rebels in Benghazi, I met them Brega, I met them in Bayda. I spoke at length with the main figures with the Transitional National Council. Firstly, they stand for secular Islam, and not fundamental Islam. Among the 11 whom I know, and are known, no-one belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood or anything like that. Secondly, they are favourable to a sort of democracy. It will not be a Churchillian democracy overnight, of course, but it will be a step forward. This step forward, this move to democracy, in a country that has been broken by 42 years of dictatorship, will be a blessing. Thirdly, I think they represent all of Libya. Inside the council, you have members who come from tribes faithful to Gaddafi, and even the tribe of Gaddafi himself.”
9:05pm Spencer Ackerman from Wired.com wrote that NATO is taking command of the Libya war. But the real strategy for victory over Moammar Gadhafi is found on the airwaves above Libya: communications frequencies telling his commanders to simply give up fighting. If that sounds like hope masquerading as a plan, then you’re receiving the message loud and clear.
Flying over Libya is the Commando Solo, the Air Force’s special operations aircraft. It’s capable of hijacking radio and TV frequencies to disrupt enemy communications and broadcast the messaging that the U.S. wants. Last week, it informed Libyan naval officers that if they left port to challenge the American, French and Italian ships floating nearby, they’d be destroyed.
9:01pm: US vessels are preparing to pull out of the Mediterranean as Nato takes over the Libya operation, US military officials have told Reuters. ”There is planning out there to do that,” the official said. “It will be more gradual than sudden.”
8:57pm:Andini Effendi tweets: “#Sirte in the evening was much more tense than [Tripoli]. Countless explosions&aircraft circling around the city.Locals were shouting ‘Sarkozy!”
Upon his arrival to the EU Council, Portugal’s Foreign minister Luiz Amado proposed that the next steps for Libya be a ceasefire, followed by a national dialogue. He furthermore stated that ‘Gaddafi is no more’ however any dialogue or ceasefire will be dependant on Col.Gaddafi’s cooperation or removal
EU foreign ministers are meeting in Brussels today (10 March) ahead of a special summit on Friday dedicated to the ongoing civil war in Libya and to the wider Southern Mediterranean region. Ministers will reportedly assess the risk that the conflict could degenerate and drag on for a long time.
Saif – guys, guys, listen, listen We need high spirits [More chanting]
Saif: Listen, listen brothers, the people have said the police force have joined the protesters, but today we will prove the opposite (Context – Saif is hinting at an idea – to equip his supporters with police clothing and request them to enter the protests undercover.)
Saif: Do you need weapons?!
Supporters reply: Yes, Yes, Yes!
Saif: One minute please, you will receive all the support, all the facilities and weapons etc. Everything will be okay, and you will be victorious.
Supporters: [Chanting] ‘Only God, Muammar & Libya.’ Oh Al Jazeera you despicable, we need no other than our leader Gaddafi’
Saif: ‘Today we’re not inviting you for rice & meat’ (Libyan saying — meaning: we mean business). This is what I want to tell you today.’
Supporters: [chanting] ‘We will show them (the protestors), ‘we will bring it back (the country back to Gaddafi’s power).’ ‘The population needs Col. Muammar.’
Saif– listen, listen, this is your country … now we shall leave, and you have all the backing. But your country [unknown word] Italians. The protesters you confront are nothing; they are bums, brats and druggies. Today brothers, Tripoli that you live in, will be cleared (of protesters).
Supporters :[chanting] With spirit and blood we support you our leader’ (Gaddafi)
Saif: I shall leave now, and I will send you weapons. Tonight I will return with more people and weapons.
ROME — Italy’s foreign minister, Franco Frattini, said Wednesday the death toll from days of unrest in Libya was likely more than 1,000.
The Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini delivering his message on the situation in Libya in the Italian lower house of Parliament on Wednesday.
Mr. Frattini told reporters in Rome that he believed estimates that more than 1,000 Libyan civilians had been killed in the clashes with security forces and government supporters “appear to be true.”
Estimates on the death toll in Libya have been difficult to pin down. Human Rights Watch has confirmed roughly 300 deaths in the week-long uprising, but has noted its estimate is conservative because of the difficulty of gathering information from morgues and hospitals during due to intermittent phone service and a near Internet blackout.
Addressing the Italian parliament on Wednesday morning after his comments about the death toll, Mr. Frattini said he was concerned about a rise in “Islamic radicalism” and “the rise of an Islamic emirate” in eastern Libya, including the Cyrenaica region, which he said was “no longer under the Libyan government’s control.” That region was one of three countries that were merged as Libya by Italian colonialists in the early 1930’s.
“This radical Islamism worries us because it is only a few hundred kilometers from the European Union,” Mr. Frattini said, adding that, “nothing can justify the violent killing of hundreds of innocent civilians.”
Mr. Frattini’s remarks on Libya were the Italian government’s strongest to date. In recent days, critics had called on Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to use his close ties with Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi to pressure him to stop the violence in Libya.