"We're starting from a void...We're starting from zero - that is a challenge. There hasn't been a tradition of a free, independent press for some would say roughly 40 years." (Aljazeera 2012)
- Sami Zaptia, Journalist


Libya is located in Northern Africa, bordered by the Mediterranean Sea, Egypt, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Algeria and Tunisia. Libya is the third largest country in Africa, and is home to 6.7 million people. More than 90% of the country is desert or semidesert, and the nation is generally hot and dry.

The Libyan population consists mostly of nationals, with non-nationals accounting for about 166 000 of the population. Arabic people make up 97% of the Libyan population, and Arabic is the official language of Libya. The majority of Libyans identify as Islamic.

The age structure of Libya's population population is similar to that of many other African countries. More than 95% of the population are under the age of 65, with people under 14 making up 32% of this.

Map of Libya:

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Useful Link, The Media Map Project:

The Media Map Project was created by World Bank Institute and Internews as a means of scoring the relative level of freedom of media, expression, and association in the countries of the world.
Click on the link below and hover over Libya on the map to see how its media scores against that of other countries of the world.



In recent years, Libyan media has changed at a drastic rate. To understand the current climate of the Libyan media it is best to have a basic knowledge of Libya’s turbulent history.

Libya gained sovereignty by means of a vote by the United Nations in December 1951. Before that time, the country’s three main regions (Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and Fezzan) served as colonies under the Roman Empire, Ottoman Empire, and fascist Italy. Due to a high wealth inequality and paradox of the ‘resource curse’, Libya’s time as a constitutional monarchy lasted only ten years before Muammar Gaddafi led a military coup to overthrow king Iris in 1969 (Britannica, 2012).

Gaddafi’s rule of Libya lasted 42 years, until 2011, when he was overthrown and killed during the Arab spring – a series of revolutionary protests and uprisings throughout the Middle East, which occurred over the last 2 years. During Gaddafi’s regime, he sought to bring about a cultural revolution for Libya based upon his own political ideology outlined in his ‘Green Book’. The green book explained Gaddafi’s political philosophy of Jamahiriya (rule by the masses), was meant to give power to the general population through the creation of a number of committees and small congresses that gave the people a medium for change. The Jamahiriya, which was instituted in 1973 did not give power to the masses but rather solidified Gaddafi’s rule over the country until October 2011 when he was overthrown and killed by rebel forces. (Britannica 2012).

On July 7, 2012, Libya held their first post-Gaddafi elections. Over a hundred political parties registered for the election, which resulted in the formation of an interim 200-member General National Congress. On August 8, 2012, the Natrional Transitional Council (NTC) handed power of Libya over to the General National Congress (Tripoli Post, 2012).

Pre and Post-Revolutionary flags:

1977-2011 flag under Gaddafi's Regime........................ 2011-Present Flag of the NTC


"The press is a means of expression for society: it is not a means of expression for private individuals or corporate bodies.
Therefore, logically and democratically, it should not belong to either one of them.” (Mathaba 2006)
- Muammar al-Gaddafi

[Image source: www.newamericamedia.org]

During the reign of dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Libya - a country where freedom of expression and free media were prohibited - has been described as one of the least free countries in the Arab region. Under the dictator's power, being a reporter was a very dangerous and demanding profession. All media was tightly and completely controlled in favour of the regime, used exclusively for the purpose of spreading propaganda throughout the country. If a journalist made an error in their conduct or a breach of the harsh censorship laws, severe punishment and imprisonment would be faced. This was known as the psychological phenomenon of 'red lines' which Gaddafi used to warn the media not to cross. Sani Zapita, editor of the Libya Herald, shared his experience of writing under the regime as having to write between these lines and elude to issues rather than confront them directly. This is because speaking out against the state would be gravely punishable.

Jamahiriya And Libyan Media Under Gaddafi

Jamahiriya, a system of the then government, created and implemented by Muammar Gaddafi, claimed to give power to the people, but rather, was used to keep Gaddafi in control of Libya. For such a system to work, one might argue that a strict control of the media is required. Gaddafi exercised this control by creating laws against dissent and to protect ‘Freedom’ and the Jamahiriya. A statement made by Martin Asser describes the legal repercussions for people who tried to challenge the regime:

“Legal penalties included collective punishment, death for anyone who spread theories aiming to change the constitution and life imprisonment for disseminating information that tarnished the country's reputation.” (BBC News 2011)

An example of this is a Journalist who was said to have been jailed for 3 years after arriving 15 minutes late to a press conference (Dajani, 2012).

Gaddafi’s 'Green Book' expresses that private ownership of the press only expresses the viewpoint of one and thus does not represent public opinion or act in the public's interest. Further, the following excerpt from the Green Book demonstrates how Gaddafi used his system of government to exert control over the media.

“The democratic press is that which is issued by a People's Committee, comprising all the groups of society. Only in this case, and not otherwise, will the press or any other information medium be democratic, expressing the viewpoints of the whole society, and representing all its groups.” (Gaddafi 1976)

Ultimately, the committees mentioned in the excerpt were answerable to an inner secretariat and to Gaddafi himself.

Gaddafi’s control over the media was not only aimed at curbing dissent and silencing opposition to the Gaddafi regime, but also to ensure that no other public figure could ever become more popular than Gaddafi. Jamal Dajani (2012) explains this determination to cover up any public figures was taken to such an extreme point that in the press athletes were referred to by the number on their jumpers and public officials were not referred to by name but rather the position or title they held.

Old Ownership

Libya's entire media landscape consisted of only six government run newspapers in the newspaper industry. Radio and television were also completely state owned, resulting in heavily censored international news broadcasting.

Muammar Gaddafi controlled most of the media in Libya, so democratic or competitive media and press were virtually nonexistent. News agencies like The Jamahiriya News Agency (JANA), Voice of Africa and Jamahiriya Broadcasting were basically monitored for propaganda. Gaddafi’s Jamahiriya would suspend, arrest or make disappear any media, journalists and press which published critical information against him. Also, Gaddafi controlled all broadcast systems in Libya. The dictatorship in Libya saw to it that regardless of ownership, all the information to be released was run through processing past the rules and control of the regime. A lot of the information on ownership was hushed in the days of the Gaddafi dictatorship and now access to such information has been outlawed due to the revolution and raw wounds regarding the illegality of any glorification of the Gaddafi regime.

This was expressed as being a "one-man media" (Dajani 2012).

Old Laws

Press Law

Libya has very low daily newspaper circulation (13 per 1,000 people), and during the regime there were few laws to promote, protect and foster a practice of open and free press in Libya. Apart from the constitutional rhetoric and Gaddafi's "state of the masses" or Jamahiriya polemics, there are only 4 daily legislated newspapers. The Libyan state controlled most of media and press systems in this country, and any opinions against the military rule were absolutely forbidden. According to the law, there was only one Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Broadcasting system as the national television broadcast medium. No privately owned television stations were allowed. In 1998, the Voice of the Greater Arab Homeland was named by the national radio system. However, after Gaddafi changed ideological and geopolitical orientations and partnership to Africa, apart from the Arab world and the Middle East, “The Voice of Africa” became the name of the radio system.


Within the Majlis or the Libyan Chamber, some political divergence of opinions were allowed during the Gadaffi regime. However, the media and press suffered strict censorship-focused laws with no room for dissent or opposition to the regime. Media and press organisations were forced into a culture of self-censorship as a clandestine network of government informants and spies ensured a culture of fear and compliance. On October 1, 2000, CNN reported that the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism was disbanded by the General People's Congress to shift its powers to local authorities and tighten their control over the Libyan media.


Internet and Revolution

During the 2011 revolution in the day following the first protests, Libya withdrew all BGP prefix announcements (Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) - responsible for creating and maintaining routing decisions and connectivity of the Internet to the global network) from the Internet. This was only for a short period, resulting in Libya being cut off from the global Internet for six hours.

On March 3 2012, there was no Internet traffic. This cessation was due to the severing of the underwater backbone fibre-optic cable by the Government. The cable ran along the coast, linking Eastern networks with Western servers in Libya. The 2011 overthrow of the Gaddafi dictatorship regime ended the era of Internet censorship.

The revolution saw a boom in the media, as in the two months of July and August 2011, some 120 publications, 5 radio stations and 3-5 TV stations came into being in Libya in this rapid shift to liberation. This phenomenon is articulated below.

"Deprived of free speech for 42 years, Libyans have seized the opportunity to publish and broadcast with energy and enthusiasm. Hundreds of newspapers, countless websites, television and radio stations have sprung up from nothing." (Shelton 2012)

Video on the media coverage of the Libyan Revolution by Western and Libyan Media organisations:

Reporters Without Borders (RWB) Statistics for Press freedom:
POST-revolutionary Ranking (2011-12) VS..PRE-revolutionary Ranking (2010)

The revolution has evidently resulted in greater press freedom in Libya.
2012 saw the removal of Libya from the Reporters Without Borders (RWB) list of countries under surveillance for Internet.


Libya, in the present day of 2012, is what we would call a virgin territory for media. Following the revolution of 2011 and the overthrowing of the long standing Government dictatorship, very few laws have been passed regarding media - and those that have been, are proven to be vague and undesirable by the public.

Libyan journalists are currently experiencing unprecedented freedom with regards to reporting in their own country. The lack of new laws in post-dictatorship Libya leave no clear guidelines on issues such as libel or slander; and currently there is no code of ethics to which Libyan journalists can adhere. This is stark in contrast to the heavily-regulated state media that came before.

The following is a list of media outlets currently operating in Libya.


  • February - State-owned daily newspaper
  • Al-Bilad - Private daily newspaper
  • New Quryna - Benghazi-based private daily newspaper
  • Mayadin - Private weekly newspaper
  • The Tripoli Post - English language weekly newspaper

external image 20fvtvs.jpg
[Image Souce: www.blogs.cornell.edu]

  • Libya TV - Pro-NTC satellite station based in Qatar. Launched in April 2011.
  • Libya Radio and Television (LRT) - State-run
  • Libya Al-Wataniyah (Libyan National Television) - State-run
  • Libya al-Hurrah - Pro-NTC (Pro Government)
  • Al-Asimah TV - Private

  • Libya Radio and Television (LRT) - State-run, operates Radio Libya, Al-Shababiyah, Al-Itha'ah al-Wataniya (National Radio)
  • Voice of Free Libya - Pro-NTC, operating out of Benghazi.
  • Libya FM - Pro-NTC, operating out of Egypt.

News Agencies/Internet
  • Libyan News Agency (WAL) - State-run.
  • Al-Tadamun - Private news agency, Benghazi.
  • Tawasul - Private news agency, via social media.
  • Al-Manarah - Leading Libyan online community.
  • All Libyan Blogs - Blog aggregator.

New Laws

The National Transitional Council (NTC) is responsible for issuing a number of laws, organising Libya's media sector. These laws include:

  • Criminalising any glorification of Gaddafi in both press and everyday life, punishing anyone who offends the state, revolution, Libyan uprising or Islam. This law was received as repressing free speech, by the Libyan people. In June 2012, the Libyan Supreme Court made a ruling that this law is unconstitutional. This ruling was made so as to help Libya's transition to democracy by retaining freedom of speech and the free spread of important information. The Supreme court stated that the law would be:

"...a regrettable backward step and a serious danger to free speech and freedom of news and information." (Reporters Without Borders 2012)

  • Passing a law for the creation of the Supreme Media Authority (which is under the authority of the NTC and its future replacement in further elections). The head of this authority is Mr Al-Hadi-Al-Bakoosh. Its responsibilities include ensuring the freedom and independence of the Libyan media sector, its organisation and the protection of national unity and social peace.

  • The creation of the National Press Organisation

  • The creation of the Broadcasting and Television Organisation.

The success of these laws and organisations is yet to be determined. Their hope is to bring order to the post-revolution public and private media sectors of Libya.


The passing of these laws was not positively received by Lybian citizens and journalists alike. Demonstrations were held in front of NTC headquarters, by the media, with protesters claiming that they were not properly consulted on the drafting of the new laws. They also objected to the fact that they were not included in the decisions of appointing the new members and heads of boards of these new organisational media bodies.

The opinions of various Libyan media professionals are displayed below:

"Our goal is to make our national media free of government control" (Aljazeera 2012)
- Hassanedine al-Tayeb (Veteran of several televisions stations in Libya)

"I'm a member [of the NTC], but I don't think the decision was done the right way" (Aljazeera 2012)
- Abdulrazag El-Aradi (NTC member)

"The media in Libya has been totally destroyed, and I don't think there will be professionalism running the media in the every near future...people in the previous regime are still in the media" (Aljazeera 2012)
- Abdulrazag El-Aradi (NTC member)

"If there will be a law that will limit the media, [we] will not allow it" (Aljazeera 2012)
- Mustafa El-Tani (Al-Osboh's editor-in-chief)

“Everyone is out there saying something, but it’s quantity not quality. The whole operation is run like wild. It’s out of control, but now is too early to make a judgment.” (Global Post 2012)
-Hassan Alamin (Human rights advocate and respected journalist)

Hassan Alamin recognises the need for professional training of future journalists to ensure the integrity and value of flowing information throughout the new media environment of Libya.
It is the common belief of people in the media industry that oppression and censorship will no longer be tolerated. Libya has expressed a firm desire to be a democracy.


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