Thirty years after Muammer Gaddafi seized power, Libya has returned to international respectability and is being wooed by many Western countries. However the regime is deaf to all criticism and remains repressive. Privately-owned media outlets appeared in 2007 but they were fairly tame.
The country continued its return to the international community in 2007, which began four years earlier with the end of UN sanctions. Libya won a UN Security Council seat in October and took its turn as Council president for January 2008. The end of diplomatic isolation has had many effects on its economy but has barely changed political conditions inside the country.
Non-government media were allowed to operate in 2007 for the first time since Col. Muammer Gaddafi came to power but they stayed under the control of his inner circle. The new dailies Oea and Cyrene and the satellite TV station Al-Libiya are owned by the firm Al-Ghad, controlled by Gaddafi’s son Seif al-Islam, but they brought a breath of fresh air into the Libyan media. Most of their journalists also work for official media outlets and Oea and Cyrene are printed on the government’s presses along with the information ministry’s newspapers. However, the new papers did criticise government ministers, including prime minister Baghdadi Mahmudi. Gaddafi, the “Guide,” remains untouchable and criticising him and the revolution he launched 30 years ago is not allowed.
Two forgotten journalists
The family of journalist Daif Ghazal, shot dead in 2005, said in July 2007 that a Tripoli court had sentenced three unnamed men to death in the case. The authorities gave no details of the trial or the killers’ motives. Ghazal, 32, vanished on 21 May 2005 and his mutilated body was found 10 days later in a suburb of Benghazi. He had written articles on a London-based website strongly criticising the Revolutionary Committees Movement, which are the backbone of the regime and which he once belonged to.
The Gaddafi Foundation for Development, after a 2006 visit by a Reporters Without Borders fact-finding mission, promised to investigate the case of journalist Abdullah Ali al-Sanussi al-Darrat, who has not been seen since he was imprisoned without charge or trial in 1973. Reporters Without Borders still has no word of him.