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Libya’s Media Transition – New Report from POLIS@LSE

Libya’s media sector has undergone huge change since the country’s 2011 Revolution. Yet, as a new report by Fatima El Issawi for LSE/POLIS shows, considerable challenges remain – for media practitioners, media policy-makers, media development actors, and international donors – as Libya transitions towards a new democratic Constitution (on which, more from Article 19).

As a new ‘Constitutional Committee’ prepares to draft a new Constitution for Libya, Fatima El Issawi’s report is a crucial contribution to the debate about the future of Libya’s media, and we’re delighted to share it with you – it’s embedded below, and it’s also available as a PDF download. 

Note: a shorter version of this paper was published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in May 2013. 

Further research on Libya’s media sector:

The body of work on media in the new Libya is growing – much of it cited in Fatima’s report. If you know of any other significant work, in any language, on Libya’s media, please let us know via email, the comments box, or Twitter. We’ll update the resources below accordingly.

In the immediate aftermath of the Revolution, several reports assessing the state of and prospects for Libya’s media sector emerged from InternewsIMSCIMA and the Doha Centre, among others. The London-based Legatum Institute subsequently supported the creation of a Libya Media Wiki (also in English), aiming to foster collaboration between the various international and local actors with a stake in the development of Libya’s media. The Institute for War and Peace Reporting also operates projects in the country.

MIGS at Canada’s Concordia University produces regular summaries of the local press in a range of countries at risk of genocide, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and serious war crimes – Libya is one of their focus countries. 

Other organisations with a Libya focus and an occasional foray into press, media and transparency issues include Publish What You PayInternational Crisis Group, Human Rights Watch and Jadaliyya.

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The Columbia Journalism Review carries a piece charting the drop-off in English-language coverage of Libya:

“During the last two years, as the story’s arc disintegrated into the chaos of a power vacuum, Libya has faded from the English-language news (except for last September’s heavily covered attack on the US consulate in Benghazi). This past July, none of the articles in an eight-part Economist “special report” exploring whether the Arab Spring has failed focused on Libya.”

by Sameer Padania Published on at 14:13

Comment from Ryan Rhodes (re-published due to technical issue):

It was very interesting… especially the back and forth over control of the TV broadcast after the fall of Tripoli because I remember some of that.

I really have just two things to say. Early Retirement and Auction.

If you have less than 5000 people on the media payroll then you should just offer them early retirement. Even at $1000 a month it would only be $60 million a year for that pension plan and those numbers are way over the mark, but still… thats peanuts to ensure a free press, and it’s a lot better than a layoff for those people who have put in the years.

I would auction the printing presses and any broadcast towers immediately and ban the gov from ever owning them again. You might even let the employees have them, who cares, but I don’t know what you do about the state TV brand names because I’m sure they carry a legitimacy you don’t want any one group to suddenly have. You still need to retire them or auction them I think.

If you have administrative staff and newspaper workers then why bother making them get a new job, what is it you think they are most likely to do with their early retirement? Startup an Indy media or go work for one is my guess.

I feel where you’re coming from in terms of journalistic standards and trying to foster media but I don’t think a Ministry of Information is the way to do it. You might also eliminate the current temporary license requirement for TV while you can.

I have watched a lot of fine BBC programming in my life, but I would not in a million years setup a new BBC, PBS, or Voice of America in Libya now if I had the chance to completely severe the link.

It may be best to wait on most drastic changes to your government until after a constitution is in place, but I think auctioning and retiring off your media is an exception because I don’t think I would even want to vote on my constitution if I knew that one party had so much power to broadcast it’s message. I realize it probably just seems as you said… like a bunch of mini-dictators broadcasting their own message, but I still think there is a fundamental difference… it’s not your job anymore. when you get media out of governments hands you can stop worrying about what to do with it and move on to more important issues.

Libya has so much money that early retirements might not be the way to go when you can just distribute money directly as they already plan to do, but this is less than 5000 employees and it may not be an intimidation free press but it’s the one step you can take towards a free press now!!!

Oh final thought! I would be looking at Al Sharqiya TV in Iraq as a model, and in addition to daytime talk shows, I believe they had early success with soap opera / telenovela type stuff.


by Sameer Padania Published on at 10:10