‘We are thirsty for capacity-building,’ young Libyan journalists report from Cairo

Mohamed El Hebeishy, Tuesday 26 Jul 2011

After more than four decades of virtually no freedom of press, Libya's young journalists start the daunting task of building strong and capable local media

Young Libyan journalists attending Cairo-hosted workshop – Photo by Mohamed El Hebeishy
Young Libyan journalists attending Cairo-hosted workshop – Photo by Mohamed El Hebeishy

Twenty-one young Libyan journalists, including three females, recently attended the Capacity Building and the Development of Knowledge for Young Libyan Journalists and Citizen Journalism workshop; a five-day Cairo-hosted event that aims to build emerging Libyan journalists’ capacity.

Hosting such an event in Cairo highlights the role Egyptian media plays, both locally and regionally.

“It is impossible to overlook the role Egyptian media plays in the region. When it comes to media in the Middle East, Egypt is the pace-setter” commented Mabrouka Al Mesmary.

Al Mesmary is a freelance photographer from Benghazi. Before the revolution she faced strenuous difficulties just to be able to flash her camera. “Before 17 February I was not allowed to go out and take pictures. And when I why, I was given the cold shoulder,” commented Al Mesmary before adding “Now I can go wherever I want and take as many pictures as I please.”

Al Mesmary is certainly not the only one whose career has dramatically changed post-revolution. Mohannad Najm actually made a career shift. “Up until 17 February, I was an engineer, but then I decided to join the revolutionaries’ front, not with a gun, but with a pen,” he commented.

Najm, who always had a passion for writing, is on the editorial team that publishes Bela Hoddod (Without Borders), the Arabic-language, 16-page twice per month newspaper that came into existence when the revolution broke out in Benghazi.

“After the internet and phone connections were cut my friends and I went to the office where I worked as an engineer. After asking the owner’s permission, who is quite a helpful guy, we used the company’s two-way satellite to send out news from Benghazi. As things progressed we decided to go from virtual to tangible, and so the Bela Hoddod newspaper was born,” explained Najm.

Another young face from Libya is Moustafa Al Zawi. Enthusiastic and passionate, Al Zawi is in his final year studying radio at Garyounis University in Benghazi. He is the voice behind Libya Café radio show. Though only five episodes have been aired so far (at time of going to press), Libya Café is grabbing Benghazi’s attention.

“It is a simple idea: a group of friends meet in a café and they discuss political and social topics; topics that were rather taboo when Gaddafi was at the helm,” he elaborated.

Freedom of speech in Libya is still in its infancy and that explains why all twenty one Libyan journalists at the conference are young and have little - if any - experience.

“It was anticipated that there would be a vacuum post-Gaddafi; especially when it comes to the media. However, with the great potential of the Libyan society and youth, I am pretty confident we can meet the challenge,” commented Zahraa Langhi who played a pivotal role in the event’s success.

An independent researcher turned political and humanitarian activist, Zahraa Langhi, is a member of Friends of Libya–Egypt, a lobbying group that was established in March 2011 that aims to provide all possible support for the Libyan revolution.

July’s workshop is the brainchild of Friends of Libya–Egypt, with collaboration with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom.

Even while celebrating the success of their first success story Friends of Libya–Egypt are already thinking of more events to organise.

“Forty years of damage has left Libya in a such a [bad] shape; there is a lot to be done and we are all for it,” concluded Zahraa Langhi.

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