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Balancing an unbalanced media scene in Libya

Ali Sharif

Senior Content Producer, El Kul

As the Global Conference for Media Freedom opens in London, Ali Sharif from our North Africa team talks about the importance of our project El Kul (For Everyone) in bridging societal divides in Libya.

There are so many challenges in Libya – eight years after the revolution, the conflict continues. Now temperatures are soaring, power cuts can last up to 13 hours a day, access to water is challenging, and forest fires are causing pollution. People are struggling to survive, and the mood is very negative.

The majority of media outlets here are polarised, and journalists may face arrest or kidnap for what they write. With El Kul, we have been working to fill that gap and to provide balance in a very unbalanced media scene. Over the years, our work has included journalist training and mentoring; however the environment now is unpredictable, and simply getting from one part of the country to another is difficult and can be dangerous.

Watch the following short film to learn more about El Kul:

Our new phase of El Kul continues to focus on the country’s youth, some of whom have spent nearly half their lives living with conflict. They are concerned with education, health care and employment; many have an entrepreneurial spirit but don’t know how to get started. And there are many social issues and divisions which Libyans do not traditionally discuss. Bridging these divides and opening these conversations is critical for the country’s future.

This age group, 18-35-year olds, doesn’t watch television or listen to radio – nearly all of their news is consumed online, through Facebook, Instagram, and on Twitter or YouTube. So our new El Kul strategy aims to reach them in those places, to provide a space for impartial, accurate and relevant information to young Libyans and open discussions on sensitive topics like child marriage and restrictions on women, as well as broader areas like employment and education. We also work to highlight the rich cultures that make up Libyan society – including different foods, traditions and the beautiful and diverse geography of the country.

One of the greatest struggles we face now is sustainability. In the future, we are aiming to be financially independent. Like all independent media outlets, this is a challenge in a fragile environment where the economy is affected by internal divisions.

In this work, measuring the results is important, but just as important is the process: how we contribute to creating a safe environment to discuss issues and problems. It isn’t just about teaching technical skills: when we talk about freedom of speech, it is about creating an environment in which journalists feel safe to open conversations around these serious topics.

It is so rewarding to open debates on issues which might otherwise never be discussed in Libyan society: things like drugs, harassment of women, and stories of hope and reconciliation. We feature stories of how people are changing their own lives, to open conversations and inspire hope and change. These stories are important in how Libyans understand their country and each other, as they look toward a more peaceful future.

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Ali Sharif is the Senior Content Producer for our El Kul project. You can find El Kul on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

To learn more about BBC Media Action's work around the world, click here.

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