The State of Journalism and Media in the New Libya

Mohamed Eljarh

Journalism and media witnessed huge expansion in Libya since the first spark in the February 17 revolution. There are now around 200 printed newspapers in Tripoli and Benghazi alone, and around 18 satellite channels throughout Libya. However, this sector in Libya has a long way to go before it can be of value and quality that the people of Libya and the world can rely on.
Despite the huge expansion in this sector, the government owns one satellite channel and two newspapers. This is a good sign to some, as it means that the government does not have control over the media as used to be the case under Gathafi’s rule. However, others are arguing that the Libyan journalism and media sector lacks substance, quality and professionalism. Another key observation is the huge numbers of new faces in the sector, however, these new faces lack professionalism and expertise in the field, and the only drive behind their interest is the enthusiasm to work in the sector. These observations highlight the need for urgent professional development for individuals and organisations in the sector, and that would be the only way to achieve quality and responsible journalism.
For example, Libyan satellite channels air similar programs, and they use similar techniques in their productions, and that indicates the lack of creativity and innovation in the sector. It is also clear that the Libyan channels rely almost entirely on untrusted media sources such as internet footage and videos, this shows that the Libyan media and journalism sector is still peddling behind and is not coping with the transition process and its elements in the country.
It is also evident that the media sector lacks the required expertise, due to the complete control practiced by the Gathafi regime over the media sector in the past. Furthermore, due to the weakness in the education sector in Libya, the educational institutions are unable to produce individuals with the required expertise and skills in the sector. The majority of the new faces in the sector are young people with no experience, skills or expertise in the field. Hence, for the sector to improve, a national program of development in the sector is urgently required.
Another issue is the absence of a coherent national convention or charter to act as a frame-work for the sector. The elite in the media sector should work harder to establish a charter that organises and overlooks the manner in which the sector operates. Currently the satellite channels and newspapers are detached from the public, and instead they are serving certain political agendas. If it is not properly regulated and continues to be run with the ad-hoc approach employed, the sector could add to the complications of the democratic transition process in Libya.
Finally, the media sector needs to play its pivotal role in rebuilding the nation, and the interest of the nation as a whole has to come first. The media sector in Libya is required to go beyond the revolutionary coverage period, and start to co-ordinate the efforts in order to meet the huge challenges ahead such as, the elections, national reconciliation and social and political development. The coverage of such important events should be of substance, quality, and has to be professionally run. Mohamed Eljarh is a UK based Libyan academic researcher and political, social development activist. He is also co-founder and Public Affairs Director of the Libyan Academy for Creativity and Innovation. He is from the city of Tobruk in Eastern Libya. [Email: m.eljarh@yahoo.co.uk ]