Tunis, rear base of independent Libyan media

In the middle of a business district of Tunis, punctuated by impersonal shopping malls, Tabadul (exchange) studios have opted for discretion. On the first floor of a modest white cube-shaped building with no logo or flag are two of the most popular locations in Libya. in L’open spacea dozen journalists feed both the economic information site sada.ly and the production company Tabadul TV which produces talk shows and magazine reports, in collaboration with some correspondents in Libya. Round glasses, a three-day beard and a pink shirt to match the decor of his television set, Ahmed Senoussi is both the founder and face of Tabadul.

Having hosted the first and short-lived Libyan economic television channel installed in Jordan, this ex-advertiser boasts of being the first to “ puts the spotlight on the economy Competition is indeed limited in the local audiovisual landscape, obsessed with power struggles that have nothing to do with the daily lives of the seven million Libyans. The flagship program, flousna (our money), tackles corruption in hospitals, tackles the weaknesses of the private sector in a bloated administration, or even the consequences of repeated blockades of oil terminals. The war is never in the title, but always in the background.

Focus on the economy

We focus on the economy as money is the main reason for clashes between Libyans who first want to control the financial windfall of the country explains the 37-year-old businessman who strives change the mentality of the younger generations, who must stop waiting for our rulers to provide housing, a car like in the time of Gaddafi † In other words, a second revolution in a country where a single man monopolized oil revenues for 42 years to buy social peace. If the country is now far too fragmented to be corrupt on a global scale, Gaddafi’s method has multiplied. Each camp waters sections of the population, militias and media to delineate or hope to expand its area of ​​influence.

Tabadul tries to escape by getting his sponsors to sign a charter that promises not to interfere with the editorial line. Not to the taste of a big advertiser who quickly halted his transfers. Over there “ total neutrality » that Ahmed El-Senoussi claims also in Tripoli’s last deadly war (activated by Marshal Khalifa Haftar in 2019 and who killed nearly 2,000 people) limits the fledgling company’s expansion, with accounts just balancing according to the boss who prefers to keep his support confidential. Billionaire Husni Bey, who heads one of the few Libyan multinationals, is said to be one of its first patrons.

On the customer side, Tabadul mainly sells its programs to the Wasat channel. TVWTV) who also moved some of its studios from Beirut to Tunis, with some services remaining in Cairo. Less chaotic than Lebanon, cheaper than Amman, the Tunisian capital, an hour’s flight from Tripoli, also offers easy access to Libyan decision-makers and business circles, all of whom have a foothold there. Its owner is Mahmoud Shamam, the former Information Minister of the National Transitional Council who ruled Libya after Gaddafi in 2011. Though he once supported Marshal Haftar’s offensive against the Islamists, his group eventually suffered the wrath of the petty tyrant of Benghazi, who had shut down his radio station in 2017. The Shamam father and son are now trying to embody the media fashion” middle », with political interviews from all sides and programs about the daily life of Libyans.

red lines

By settling in Tunis, Libyan journalists certainly gain in security and independence. But how do you accurately recount the lives of the Libyans without standing by their side? † This permanent dilemma is creating a deadlock in the news, admits Tarek Al-Houny, the founder of the Libyan Cloud Agency news agency. In his posts published in both Arabic and English, the word “ militia is prohibited from limiting reprisals and maintaining his network of one hundred correspondents spread across Libya. † In the event of an attack or clashes, we only cover the consequences for the population without ever naming those responsible, and so far our journalists have never been arrested for more than a few hours. trusts this former director who was in charge of public radio and television from 2013 to 2014, arrested three times before finally being forced into exile to escape an Islamist militia.

An everyday situation in Libya after Gaddafi. According to the Committee for the Protection of Journalists, four journalists have disappeared since 2013 and eight have been murdered.CPJ† Libya Platform, a coalition ofNGO women defending human rights reports that 247 were attacked by armed groups or persecuted by military courts. The latest victim is the broadcaster’s reporter Ali Al-Rifaoui 218TVfunded by the United Arab Emirates (WATER) and is considered close to Camp Haftar. However, it is one of the Marshal’s brigades that has detained this journalist since March 26, 2022, who falsely investigated the corruption of the Sirte authorities, reports the CPJ

Tarek Al-Houny, founder of the Libyan Cloud News Agency

© Ariane Lavrilleux

In his living room transformed into a newsroom, decorated with a single painting by Velléda, Tarek Al-Houny is never disconnected from the news that turns his phone, television screen and computer on permanently. Supported at launch in 2015 by the Academy of German Public Broadcasting Deutsche Welle, his news agency now survives thanks to the sale of reports to other agencies and Libyan channels. Over the years, he has seen the young revolutionaries he trained in journalism join the TV stations. partisans where the wages offered are twice as high. Unable to contain them, he hopes his foals will one day succeed in curbing the hate speech that still dominates the media coverage of the 15 major media, according to a study by the Libyan organization Falso.

Threat

If hate campaigns are one of the weapons of choice for silencing dissenting voices, the counter-offensive is staged and united in Tunis. Several anti-disinformation platforms have emerged, often with the help of foundations, such as: BBC Media Action originally from Al Kul, aka Deutsche Welle, main sponsor of the Truth Seekers Center.

Ghady Kafala, editor-in-chief of the El-Biro website

© Ariane Lavrilleux, 2022

The investigative media El-Biro (pen in Libyan dialect) arose from the chance meeting between the journalist Aboubaker Al-Bizanti and the writer Ghady Kafala, both forced to live in Tunis. Persecuted by the government of Tripoli in 2017, the ex-blogger did not want to give up talking about minorities and human rights. It has recruited 17 freelancers, including 7 women, to contribute to El-Biro’s podcasts and lengthy surveys on topics as diverse as abortion, displaced persons from Benghazi or even domestic violence, which affects three quarters of Libyan children.

However, moving away from the Libyan capital is not enough to end the threats. The 29-year-old journalist has become accustomed to thinly veiled harassment —” we know where you live – but had to stop publishing articles to protect their authors, even anonymous ones. Attacks on female journalists are particularly cruel, denounces Ghady Kafala, their Facebook accounts and their messaging systems are being hacked and they are bombarded with humiliating, sexist insults † Violence does not spare them either. An El-Biro employee who wanted to narrate the daily lives of imprisoned women was beaten before she could even approach a detention center.

Others have chosen to develop a journalism” positive on social networks, such as the site Hunna Libya which highlights portraits, the richness of the heritage and the diversity of the landscapes of the fourth largest country in Africa. If all these Tunisia-based Libyan media are still looking for their economic model, they are participating in the emergence of a new journalistic front, ten years after the failure of the first revolutionary channels in 2011. At a time when their Tunisian colleagues paradoxically, a full-blown return of presidential authoritarianism.

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