Libya's press restrictions: This time, the revolution may not be televised
Press restrictions in Libya make it difficult to get images out of the country.
February 21st, 2011
05:31 PM ET

Libya's press restrictions: This time, the revolution may not be televised

Many readers are wondering why CNN’s coverage of protests in Libya isn’t teeming with the photos, videos and first-person accounts that made our reports out of Tunisia and Egypt so riveting.

The easy answer? They’re different animals.

In Egypt, CNN was able to walk among the protesters and gather their stories (and even be attacked by them), but practical and legal restrictions in Libya make such open coverage impossible. With the exception of a handful of accounts out of Benghazi, CNN cannot immediately confirm most reports.

The Libyan government maintains a firm grip on communications and has not responded to repeated CNN requests for access. We have interviewed numerous witnesses over the phone, but on Monday, it appeared that the country's internet connections and mobile phone networks had either slowed considerably or been shut down.

We’re not the only media outlet experiencing difficulties.

Jon Williams, BBC’s world news editor, wrote Sunday that Libya is one of the few countries where British nationals cannot operate without a visa, or obtain one on arrival.

There, the door is firmly shut to international journalists; local reporters face intimidation and the threat of worse,” he wrote.

He added that the nation’s tricky geography - largely desert - the scale of the violence and “the ruthlessness of the Libyan authorities” has prompted BBC to keep its correspondent in Cairo, Egypt, rather than send him into Libya “undercover.”

Libya is known for some of the world’s strictest limitations on the press. In its press freedom index, Reporters Without Borders ranks the nation 156th out of 175 countries. Though there has been some recent improvement in basic freedoms, the watchdog reported, “progress remains brittle."

“The same goes for freedom of the press with the government making frequent gestures of openness over the past two years but pulling back from this progress lately. Moreover, it still exerts tight control over the media through a repressive legislative stranglehold."

In January 2010, Libya began censoring the internet and blocked YouTube and independent opposition websites, the group said. It also has a regulatory body that monitors journalists who report on corruption.

Responding to state actions targeting the press – including the November arrests of 22 of its reporters – Libya Press announced in December it was closing up shop in Tripoli and would resume its reporting from various foreign capitals, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Perhaps the ownership of Libya Press is telling, both to the degree of press restrictions and the level of societal tumult: The outlet is part of a media group owned by Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, leader Moammar Gadhafi’s son.

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Filed under: Egypt • Protest • Tunisia • World
soundoff (52 Responses)
  1. jason

    Sure Aderson Cooper COULD go over there but his likey fate would be ending up thrown in a hole , lit on fire to die like anyone else trying to take on the government over there. If there have been any news reporters tryig to sneak stories i wouldn't be surprised if they arent revealed to be some of the ones slaughtered in the coming days as details unfold.

    February 21, 2011 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Lee Oates

    Aljazeera seems to be a decent job of covering Libya.

    February 21, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  3. A.N

    CNN is definitely the poorest choice to follow Libya's events – or any kind of events for that matter.

    Al Jazeera would the best choice:

    February 21, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Brutus

    Actually, no,I wasn't wondering about the lack of teeming photos and videos of the protests. I was wondering why there aren't any teeming photos and videos of the Libyan dead bodies that decay. I was also wondering what color the magots will be. Will buzzards suck out their eyes or will fruit flies feast on the those hardened eye balls. That is what I was wondering.

    February 21, 2011 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
  5. tilmeismoney

    Kadafi , you better run for cover , soon your assets will be frozen too, take your son with you. To hell.

    February 21, 2011 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Matt

    Why Adreson Cooper is not In Bahrain? Why have you stopped showing events in Bahrain? Is it bacuse US government strictly told you? Please advise us?

    February 21, 2011 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • jeff

      AC would get the fvck beat out of him in Bah Rain, those are the jackbootedest of the jackbooted thugs. Wouldn't last a second.

      February 21, 2011 at 8:30 pm | Report abuse |
  7. loki

    "They’re different animals."

    ... ummm racist much CNN?

    February 21, 2011 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • cervantes

      It's a well-known expression that has zero to do with race.

      February 21, 2011 at 7:41 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Brutus

    Anderson Cooper is not in Bahrain because nobody in the world cares about that meaningless country with no direction and no contribution to society. If that entire race vanished tomorrow, no one would even notice,nor care including all the media.

    February 21, 2011 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daniel

      I don't know about that Brutus,the king of that country is a very good stooge for Barack Obama as he eagerly carries out his orders and Obama does not want to lose another crony!!!

      February 21, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • jeff

      dude, bahrain's only like 600,000 people that doesn't qualify as a race.

      February 21, 2011 at 8:31 pm | Report abuse |
  9. jessLevel

    CNN please give credit where credit is duly due... " The revolution will not be televised "
    is a Gil Scott Herron song, which states thus... thankx

    February 21, 2011 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Erisian

      Thanks for the information. I was actually wondering myself because I have heard Public Enemy say that before.

      February 21, 2011 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Trent

    Al Jazeera English Live Stream is providing the best coverage of middle east news. CNN doesn't compare.

    February 21, 2011 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
  11. AHR

    The easy answer? They’re different animals. should it not be actors??

    February 21, 2011 at 7:56 pm | Report abuse |
  12. frog

    Is it just me, or does this article almost seem to refer to protesters as "animals"

    February 21, 2011 at 8:07 pm | Report abuse |
  13. banasy

    Jeez, it just means it's a different situation. Simmer down, now!

    February 21, 2011 at 8:10 pm | Report abuse |
  14. personny

    Israel is becoming a nation.

    February 21, 2011 at 8:31 pm | Report abuse |
  15. arrow

    Its time to put the clown out of business

    February 21, 2011 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
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