April 5, 2011 / 6:36 PM / in 8 years

Libyan state TV glosses over anti-Gaddafi revolt

BERLIN (Reuters) - You can watch the weather forecast and business news daily on state-run Libyan television, but you won’t find any spot news on the war between forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi and rebels seeking his overthrow.

EDITOR'S NOTE: PICTURE TAKEN ON GUIDED GOVERNMENT TOUR A nurse chants slogans during a protest at a hospital in the city of Zawiyah April 5, 2011. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

On al-Jamahiriya, the main mouthpiece of Gaddafi’s government, there are no live reports from the front and no mention of “opposition forces.”

Instead there are plenty of denunciations of the West and its Middle Eastern allies for the “crusader war with Arab backing” and a “Western conspiracy” to seize Libya’s oil.

The rebels, who have won some degree of international recognition, are “terrorist gangs.” A commentator frequently tells viewers that they make up at most five percent of Libya’s population.

Libyans abroad who support the rebels say they cannot take al-Jamahiriya seriously.

“It’s a big joke and it is making people sick,” Mossa, a Libyan who lives in Britain, told Reuters in a Facebook message. He declined to give his full name or any other personal details for fear of reprisals against family members still in Libya.

News bulletins in Arabic, English and French begin with the same line on supporters at Gaddafi’s fortified compound in Tripoli: “Libyan men, women and children continue to flock to Bab al-Aziziyah to express their support for the brother leader.”

A live feed from the compound always follows, showing supporters dancing to upbeat Arabic music. Some wave green flags while others brandish posters of Gaddafi or banners expressing willingness to die to protect him.

The pictures are reminiscent of Egyptian state television during protests that led to the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak in February. While protests raged in Cairo, Nile TV showed videos of a tranquil Egyptian capital.

It all changed the day after Mubarak stepped down: state media celebrated the end of his 30-year reign.

“Libyans I know rarely watch al-Jamahirya. When they do, they get angry,” 37-year-old Libyan Ayman Naas, who lives in Germany, said by telephone. “They watch al-Jazeera or Western channels.”

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Al-Jamahiriya runs a daily program called “Hope of the Nation,” whose goal, it says, is to expose conspiracies and uncover traitors seeking to undermine Gaddafi’s rule. It says that it does so “in a professional, transparent and honest way.”

Regular guest Yusuf Shakir, described as a former dissident, takes aim at everyone from French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Qatar-based al-Jazeera television to countries that froze Gaddafi’s assets and rebel leaders.

In one episode, Shakir said it was no coincidence that an earthquake and tsunami struck Japan last month “merely hours” after Tokyo froze Gaddafi’s assets, suggesting that the disaster was a divine punishment.

Japan froze the assets of Gaddafi and other Libyans on March 7 in line with a U.N. Security Council resolution. The earthquake and devastating Tsunami occurred four days later.

“People who run al-Jamahiriya or work for it have their heads buried in the sand. I don’t think they believe what they say,” said Naas from Germany, who like many Libyans abroad watch Libyan television via satellite.

For most of the day the channel plays videos showing Libyan soldiers as well as naval and air force units in training, against a background of upbeat songs praising Gaddafi.

“I am sure that when Gaddafi goes, al-Jamahiriya will apologize to the Libyan people,” said Naas.

Editing by David Stamp

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