Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – When historians look back at the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, they will highlight the fallen colonel’s media machine; which filled the airwaves with pro-Gaddafi rhetoric and propaganda until the regime’s very last moments.
Hala Misrati is a name that the people of Libya will not soon forget; she is a state television anchor who has taken an increasingly outspoken pro-Gaddafi stance since the outbreak of the Libyan revolution, which culminated on Sunday with Misrati appearing live on television brandishing a pistol and declaring “with this weapon, I either kill or die today” in response to the Libyan rebel’s advancement into Tripoli. The Libyan rebels later stormed the headquarters of Libyan State TV and arrested the state television anchor.
Those who know Misrati say that she is a journalist with limited capabilities and a basic broadcasting style, indeed she often interrupted her reports with long rambling monologues extolling the Gaddafi regime and the Libyan leader, and condemning the international world and foreign media. It is clear that Misrati was no your typical television presenter working at an ordinary television station; she was the spearhead of a huge pro-Gaddafi propaganda campaign, appearing every evening on Libyan State TV to defend the dying regime, broadcast misinformation, and promote conspiracy theories.
Misrati strongly defended Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, mocking his critics and detractors. However Misrati was not just popular amongst the pro-Gaddafi crowd, for the Libyan rebels and rebels supporters are also strangely fascinated by the bullish television anchor and her outlandish reporting style. Reports indicate that the Libyan rebels and rebel supporters also watched Misrati’s nightly broadcasts, laughing at her ignorant claims and pro-Gaddafi propaganda – although this is laughter that is closer to tears.
The anti-Gaddafi rebels delight in exposing Hala Misrati’s mistakes and blunders, posting video clips of these on YouTube. In one famous example, Hala Misrati claimed that the Muslims could not accept the UN’s move to “adopt” the draft resolution authorizing NATO airstrikes over Libya because Islam prohibits adoption – of children.
However, Misrati’s reporting was not always amusing, particularly when she famously criticized Iman al-Obeidi – the Libyan woman who claimed to have been raped by Gaddafi troops – calling her a liar and a whore.
She also infamously interrogated Rana al-Aqbani, a Tripoli-based journalist who has since disappeared. Acting more as a secret police interrogator than an interviewer, Misrati demanded that al-Aqbani “say the things that you said in your recordings [of private telephone calls]”, in an attempt to get the detained journalist to admit that she had supported the Libyan revolution against the Gaddafi regime.
Misrati has also strongly criticized Western and Arab states, as well as western and Arab media, for their perceived sympathy towards the Libyan rebels. She blasted former Libyan Representative to the UN, Mohamed Shalgham, who defected from the Gaddafi regime, reportedly calling him an “ignorant idiot” and saying that “he is good for nothing but barking like a dog.”
In another broadcast, Misrati described prominent Qatar-based Muslim cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi as a “devil” after he criticized the pro-Gaddafi Libyan media. Misrati reportedly stated that “al-Qaradawi is too ignorant to judge me or the [Libyan] press.”
In her last broadcast on Sunday – a day before Libyan State TV was taken over by the Libyan rebels on Monday – Misrati brandished a pistol and vowed “You [the Libyan rebels] won’t take the channel, Tripoli, or Libya! I will protect my colleagues at the [Libyan State TV] channel…we are willing to become martyrs” adding “with this weapon I either kill or die today!” However Libyan State TV was under rebel control on Monday, with Libyan rebel sources claiming that they had arrested Hala Misrati.
However, it appears that Gaddafi’s biggest cheerleader has now changed positions, and in a telephone conversation conducted via the internet, Hala Misrati reportedly stated that “Libya is not just for Muammar or anybody else…Libya is above everybody. I will live and die in my country!” She also stated that she had surrendered herself to the Libyan rebels because they are “polite” and “decent”, adding that they had treated her well. She stated “I saw that they [the Libyan rebels] are Libyans…decent people.”
Hala Misrati was born in Tripoli; she obtained a BA in Law from Al Fateh University in 2003. She published a collection of short stories in 2007 entitled “The moon has another face”, and she only began working in television in 2008. The Libyan crisis has made her a star, beloved by Gaddafi supporters, whilst viewed with a mixture of bemusement and loathing by the Libyan opposition. Libyan State TV has now gone off-air; Libyans and others who have gotten used to the colorful broadcasts and news reports transmitted by Libyan State TV are now greeted with a black screen, which reflects the dark nature of this television station and its broadcasters under Colonel Gaddafi, which may have now seen its final broadcast.