Libyan press booms after revolution
By Essam Mohamed for Magharebia in Tripoli – 07/02/12
The Libyan revolution sparked an unprecedented press boom, with youth activists issuing their own editions to chronicle the events of the war.
The media landscape, which has long been dominated by the state through the Public Press Authority, now boasts more than 300 dailies and weeklies. The editions range from political to literary and diverse.
In Benghazi alone, the cradle of the revolution, the number of newspapers reached 180. The number is more modest in Tripoli, with less than ten newspapers.
"The press shifted from a blocked space that was monopolised by the regime and limited by many caveats and multiple taboos, to broad horizons that know no boundaries – even to the point of chaos and randomness, in some cases," Awad El Shaary, editor-in-chief of Tobruk al-Hurra, told Magharebia.
Most papers tackle local issues, the journalist explained, including reconciliation, democracy, the constitution, elections, the conditions of the injured and scant services.
"Local newspapers are also interested in writing about martyrs and rebels, as well as the events and battles that took place," he said.
Some topics, however, remain taboo, El Shaary said. Newspapers cannot discuss issues like "the indiscriminate proliferation of weapons, the ambiguity of some figures, leakage of public funds through unknown channels, the dictates of some countries that participated in the toppling of the Kadhafi regime as well as some statements and concerns about the coming political structure", according to El Shaary.
Many new media endeavours receive funding from civil society, local councils and businessmen. The National Transitional Council (NTC) provides assistance to journalists in the form of publication aid and pensions to reporters formerly affiliated with the Public Press Authority.
"I do not think those behind the currently released newspapers are journalists or media personnel," said Al-Saraya editor-in-chief Ahmed Saad. "They are, to say the least, holders of small funds, not major institutions, because the material at hand is repeated and not outstanding."
Taqi Al-Din Alshloi, manager of Irassa website, agreed that one of the main challenges of Libya's post-revolutionary media is "the absence of professionalism".
"Amateurs were not directly related to the world of journalism," he said. "They were only out to document a series of glaring events. Now after the success of the revolution, it has become difficult to get news."
"Finance is also a very important factor," Alshloi added. "With the abundance of papers on the market, the purchasing power is very small. As such, most newspapers, except the few outstanding ones, are suffering from a severe shortage in yield, making it difficult for them to continue."
The revolution unleashed a "thirst for media", which "created great and remarkable dynamism among large segments of society", according to Alshloi.
"The press witnessed a slow start, and soon reached its peak with the rise in the rate of newspapers issued in liberated Libyan cities," he said.
Human rights activist Jamal al-Haji noted that the role of the press in the transitional period is to serve as a link between the NTC and people and update citizens on government activities.
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