Libyan state media silent on protests
The protests in Libya have received mixed coverage in the media, with state-owned outlets preferring to concentrate on demonstrations in favour of the country's leader.
Libya's state-owned TV made no mention of the anti-government protests in the east of the country on 16 February, and continued with its usual programming on 17 February.
During its morning bulletin Libyan TV continuously showed demonstrations in support of leader Col Muammar Gaddafi, which the TV said had been held "across Libya". There were about 200 to 300 demonstrators, the vast majority of whom were men, at each protest shown.
At one point a crowd could be heard chanting anti-Al-Jazeera TV slogans. The TV started broadcasting a pro-Gaddafi demonstration live from Sirte, his home town, at around 1000 GMT. The numbers demonstrating were significantly greater than the previous day, with the crowd chanting: "Oh Jazeera! You despicable one."
The TV aired live coverage of a speech by Gaddafi the evening before, in which he denounced both the United States and their "Zionist" allies in front of a cheering crowd.
Libya al-Yawm, a London-based, privately owned electronic newspaper which reports favourably on the Libyan leader's son, Sayf-al-Islam, was the only Libyan source to report on the anti-Gaddafi protests in Benghazi and Al-Bayda.
The paper usually carries balanced, unopinionated reporting, but on 16 February it published 16 articles on the anti-Gaddafi protests, quoting "trustworthy" sources in Benghazi and al-Baydam, and none on pro-Gaddafi demonstrations in Tripoli.
Reports included "busloads of thugs" clad in green, the colour of the Libyan flag, and carrying knives being brought in to confront protesters in Benghazi. Estimating the number of protesters at 1,000, the paper said: "The source just confirmed that extreme clashes are taking place now between thugs and protesters in central Benghazi."
It later added that additional security forces had been bussed in to "control" the situation and that they had "out-of-town" accents. "This indicates back-up from beyond the city's borders in order to control the situation," Libya Al-Yawm reported.
Four protesters were killed in al-Baydam, the paper said, as the crowd attempted to storm the internal security building, instead setting on fire two cars and the headquarters of the traffic police. The crowd was estimated at more than 1,500 people and was supplied with water by local people.
It later reported that mobile phone users in Libya had been sent a text message warning them against taking to the streets on 17 February. The paper's sources said the message had been sent as a result of "directives from the state security service, which is responsible for the country's two mobile networks".
Headlines in state-owned Libyan papers continued to highlight pro-Gaddafi demonstrations or his public engagements.
Quryna, which was previously part of Sayf-al-Islam's Al-Ghad Media Corporation but which has now been appropriated by the state, carried an upbeat report about order being restored in Benghazi. One article reported on the families of "17 February 2006 martyrs" who met the Libyan leader and condemned the protests.
The front page of state-owned Al-Jamahiriya was dedicated to pro-Gaddafi demonstrations and his public appearance at the Ahly football club in Tripoli the day before, while state-owned Al-Shams led exclusively with coverage of this event.
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