By Umar Khan.
11 May, Tripoli:
An independent and responsible media is the strength of any country and it is very important that . . .[restrict]its integrity be not only protected but also respected by one and all. Libya is much the same as a new-born country and needs considerable work in all sectors and the media is no exception. The media was not only deliberately neglected by the former regime but people were discouraged from pursuing careers in journalism. Journalists were put into very difficult situations to make sure there was no one to report the facts.
The role of the media is very important universally and it doesn’t change over time, but for Libya it has a different meaning. The Libyan media not only has to develop itself but, at the same time, it has the arduous task of keeping the people informed about the constant changes taking place in their country. The events are taking place at a rapid pace in Libya and it would take a very active and objective media to keep people fully informed and in the picture.
There was no media structure in Qaddafi’s Libya, meaning the new Libya has to build from the very foundations of what should be an independent media. It is something that cannot be done overnight but it also does not provide an excuse for would-be journalists to hide behind. They have to do their job as properly and as professionally as possible.
The role of the media is not to spread rumors but to report facts and uncover the hidden truth behind the scandals and maladministration that not only destroy the country but also corrupt its spirit. It is very important for the Libyan media that it doesn’t fall for sensationalism. Ordinary people must be able to base their opinions on accurate reporting rather than on rumour-fed sensational stories.
The Libyan media has to learn to differentiate between rumors and authentic news if it is to establish itself as an independent and credible source of information not only for the Libyan people but for the whole world. It is not only important for them to provide authentic information but it will also be vital for the country itself as it will help change how Libya is viewed by the outside world.
The international media has given yet another reason to the local media withits inaccurate and inadequate coverage of recent protests in front of the Prime Minister’s office and its attempts to get the story out as early as possible. The stories that were initially run by the international media were disconnected with the reality but due to the lack of coverage and authentic information from the local media, the ordinary Libyan had no choice but to watch and believe what was being broadcast by the outside the world.
The confusion spread by such irresponsible reporting of the incident was ended only after a news conference by an official government spokesman. It was clarified that no “crossfire” or “heavy fighting” took place. The incident was serious, however, as a human life was lost, but it was not a failure of security as the media portrayed it. The reports were later corrected but the damage had been done.
The situation in any country should not be judged by one sporadic incident and, before blowing it out of proportion, it should be remembered that Libya is still recovering from last year’s eight-month-long conflict. If protestors (who are former revolutionaries) fire their weapons into the air after a verbal confrontation with guards, it is neither heavy fighting nor an attack on the building. And protestors later expressed regret for having taken arms to the protests.
The chaos and panic resulting from the misreporting of the incident would have been avoided if the local media has ben up to the task of reporting it properly. The uncertainty caused by misinformation of all sorts is the biggest challenge for Libya and the only way to solve it is through an active media.
Libya is going through the post-conflict phase and it is very important that the media acts responsibly and paves the way for reconciliation by not giving in to pressure to run stories that are factually incorrect and which can so easily promote hatred. The media has to work hard to establish its credibility in a very short time. It has to demonstrate its abilities through the quality of its work in order to win the trust of ordinary Libyans. If Libya is to prosper and progress into a developed country, it will be of the utmost importance that the media remains independent.
The media has to step up its efforts to improve the level of awareness in Libya and this is only possible by acting responsibly. The journalists should not get into a race of breaking stories without sufficient confirmation of the facts. Doing so will only add fuel to the fire. Journalists have to break the stereotype that Libya is a land of rumors. They have to realize that many conflicts can be averted simply by timely and accurate reporting.
They owe it to the martyrs of the revolution as a “free media” was one of the core reasons why the 17 February Revolution actually took place.
Umar Khan can be found at twitter.com/umarnkhan [/restrict]