Benghazi, Asharq Al-Awsat – Libya has witnessed the first publication of an opposition newspaper in the country since Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi came to power 42 years ago. This is the “17 February Revolution” newspaper, or “Libya” newspaper as it is more commonly referred to. This newspaper is printed in a small flat adjacent to the Governing Council of the Revolution in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.
Asharq Al-Awsat visited the hastily furnished headquarters of this recently-established newspaper which comprised nothing more than two desks and four computers in a narrow room. It is from here that the “Libya” editors receive stories and communications from their reporters all across the country, as well as physically edit the newspaper.
The “Libya” opposition newspaper, which has only been in print for 15 days, identifies itself with the flag of the former regime, which has become a symbol of the opposition and anti-Gaddafi sentiment. The newspaper’s name “Libya” is presented in the red-black-and green of this flag, whilst the front-page of the newspaper is also adorned with the image of legendary Libyan rebel Omar Mukhtar and his most famous quote “we do not surrender…we win or we die.” Omar Mukhtar had made this famous statement when asked to surrender to the Italian colonial forces.
Hamad-Allah, a reporter for the opposition newspaper “Libya” who reports from the front-line of the rebel’s conflict with the Gaddafi regime, told Asharq Al-Awsat that volunteers contribute to the newspapers operation by transferring urgent reports and pictures back to the headquarters in Benghazi via car. He stressed the importance of these volunteers, particularly due to the breakdown in communication being seen in the country.
“Libya” editor, Mohamed Abdul Salam, runs the newspaper with the aid of an editorial team, constantly receiving new articles and photographs from the front-lines, whilst also dispatching messages to his journalists, sending them to cover this story or that.
Abdul Salam told Asharq Al-Awsat that “‘Libya’ is the first daily newspaper of the new revolution, we have 12 journalists working for us, and they have volunteered their time and expertise to the revolution.”
As for where the newspaper is printed, he said “all of our newspapers are printed in Benghazi by privately owned publishers and printing presses, as a form of revolutionary volunteerism.”
Abdul Salam said that the newspapers size, in terms of page numbers, is determined by the reports, pictures, and even satirical cartoons, received by the editorial team in Benghazi, as well as the technical constraints of the publishers. He also said that the “Libya” newspaper usually numbers between 8 and 12 pages.
As for the “Libya” newspapers headquarters, this is a large building along the Benghazi shore which looks out upon the Mediterranean Sea, with other flats inside this building also contributing to the Libyan revolution.
Abdul Salam revealed that “this building was the place where Gaddafi would round up all the opponents to his rule, and they were tortured here.” He added “anyone who came here [when Gaddafi was in control of the city] would not be seen from again, nor would he ever see the light of day [after this].”
Abdul Salam stressed that the “Libya” newspapers major goal is to “topple the Gaddafi regime” and he added that “our goal is to oust the regime from the rest of the Libyan cities that remain under Gaddafi control. He continues to be in control of parts of Tripoli, Sirte, and Sabha.”
The “Libya” newspaper’s reports primarily focus upon the fighting taking place throughout the country, as well as stories of the heroism of Libyan rebels killed in the fighting, and new revelations and information about the corruption of the Gaddafi regime. For example, “Libya” revealed that the last hospital or medical center to be built by the Libyan government or Gaddafi regime was in 1979.