TRIPOLI, March 7, 2011 (AFP) – Moamer Kadhafi is exploiting technology in a bid to persuade both his own people and the world at large that Libya, rocked by three weeks of insurrection, is the target of a media and Islamist plot. Television and SMS text messaging are the main tools being used by the embattled Libyan leader’s regime domestically, but abroad it has also resorted to diplomatic demarche to complain to the United Nations. Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaaim begins his nightly news conferences in the capital with a lengthy list of government complaints about the foreign media which are guilty, in his opinion, of biased coverage. On Sunday he was appalled that the military “victory” over rebels in eastern Libya, announced on state television, was not reported fairly internationally, even though AFP journalists had observed the areas remained in rebel hands. “We’re still seeing strange things in your reporting,” said Kaaim. “Some of you don’t understand the reality… we leave it to you to be honest with yourselves.”
Typically, his main targets are the Arabic-language TV channels Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, although Western media outlets also come under regular fire. Vexed by questions on the “victory” of government forces on the front lines of Ras Lanuf in the east and Zawiya in the west, he finally retorted: “Apparently, your interpretation of ‘under control’ and ours are different.” He added that the army had been ordered not to enter rebel strongholds and to adopt “defensive positions,” a part recognition that the Libyan military’s successes were not quite as clear cut as state television was reporting. Local newspapers regurgitate official propaganda, recasting reports issued by the state news agency Jana. The websites of newspapers Oea and Quryna, both close to Kadhafi’s son Seif al-Islam, can no longer be accessed online. Libyan television loops the claim that the insurgency was spurred by Al-Qaeda along with a “colonialist imperialist conspiracy,” consolidated by the “lies” of the international media and carried out by drugged youths.
It also broadcasts patriotic songs and footage of military parades, particularly those centred on previous anniversaries of the Libyan revolution, as well as recordings of pro-Kadhafi demonstrations. This cocktail mixing triumphant discourse with conspiracy claims reportedly succeeded in prompting people to take to the streets of Tripoli on Sunday. Thousands converged “spontaneously” on the central Green Square to demonstrate their support for Kadhafi. But in reality, there was nothing haphazard about the pro-regime rally at which militiamen handed out refreshments and thousands of baseball caps stamped with the portrait of the Libyan leader. The north African country’s main mobile phone company, Libyana, has also been spreading reports of the conspiracy by text message. “Infiltrated foreigners, Tunisians, Egyptians and Sudanese, hold passports from Gulf countries, foreign currency and very sophisticated communications devices and networks,” said one message in Arabic.
The conspiracy propaganda deployed domestically and fed to the tightly leashed international media in Tripoli has also crept into official communications. Foreign Minister Mussa Kussa has sent a letter to the UN Security Council to denounce the February 26 UN Resolution 1970 establishing sanctions against Libya because of the bloody repression of the protest movement. “The resolution was based on external press and media reports, rather than on accurate, well-documented, and verifiable information whose credibility has been ascertained by an independent and impartial facts-finding committee,” it said. “The parties responsible for this violence are sleeping cells which belong to Al-Qaeda terrorist organisation.” When asked what proof Tripoli had for this, a foreign ministry spokesman told AFP: “Who else than Al-Qaeda could do that? It’s their methods. It’s clear. I don’t know what you need if this isn’t enough for you.”
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