Misrata TV uses Gaddafi truck to broadcast
September 2nd, 2011 - 11:12 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.

A shining white truck sits imposingly behind an building off the combat-blasted main avenue in Libya’s port city of Misrata, a rebel bastion that was besieged for months by loyalist forces. Misrata TV’s outside broadcast unit - once owned by Moamer Gaddafi - is currently the only way the rebel station can air its limited programming.

An anonymous one-storey white building, spared in the otherwise stricken zone, is home to Misrata TV, the rebel television channel that broadcasts by satellite to north Africa, southern Europe and the Gulf. For the past two weeks, it has put out four hours of programming a day - edited sequences of stills and moving images on the tempestuous history of the city over six months of uprising. The broadcasts are accompanied by voice-over or music, praising the eternal glory of Misrata and its “thowar” or revolutionary fighters.

“We have about 150 people working for us, all volunteers,” says the head of the Misrata media committee, Mohammed Darrat, who wants to create “an information and opinion channel.” For the moment, though, all programmes are recorded. But a studio has already been prepared for live broadcasts, targeted within four weeks. The three-camera facility boasts a backdrop in the green, black and red colours of the revolution.

But for the moment it is the enormous outside broadcast vehicle, its satellite antenna pointing to the sky, that relays Misrata TV’s output. Mr Darrat revealed some of the story behind the vehicle. ”Gaddafi used this truck to make broadcasts when he was constantly on the move in order not to be taken. Our men took it in battle,” Mr Darrat said, declining to go into specifics. With its fitted carpet, wooden interior, editing suites and multiple screens, the monster of an outside broadcast unit is over-equipped to the extent that it can cause cold sweats among its technicians.

Of the station’s output, Darrat said it is independent. But up to a point. Misrata TV broadcasts what it wants “unless we do something illegal, against our culture or our religion, or if we talk about someone who is dead without the family having been informed,” he said.

What would be deemed illegal for Libyan journalists since the revolution? ”There is no law. It’s complicated. We are trying to do our best not to hurt but to help the revolution. We are looking for freedom, to improve the media,” added Darrat, who also heads Radio Misrata which played a major role in making the rebels’ views known since March.

The people certainly like Misrata TV. ”It shows how we won the battle of Misrata and conquered Zliten,” the nearby town, on August 19, said Idriss Ilglib, who is in his forties. ”They have incredible footage, and a whole lot of it. Everyone in Misrata is supplying them with pictures,” he added. Much of this material has been recorded using the cameras on mobile phones, of poor quality but in some cases remarkable content -showing everything from firefights to destruction, death and celebration to a martial music soundtrack.