A Maltese reporter for Smash TV has spent the week in Tripoli dispatching news from the perspective of Muammar Gaddafi’s government, after his trip was coordinated by former Prime Minister Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici.
Gerald Fenech, who has been in Tripoli since last Sunday, says he also got the chance to speak to Libyan civilians in Green Square, whom he says share a “general feeling”.
“In Tripoli it’s all pro-Gaddafi. There’s no sign of any rebel activity anywhere... The general feeling is that a number of people were going to be investigated for corruption and most of the ministers who defected to the rebels were allegedly involved in this corruption,” he told The Sunday Times in a telephone call from Libya.
Mr Fenech spoke to several people from a “fact-finding NGO” working in Tripoli, who criticised Nato’s military intervention and shed doubts on the rebels. He describes them as “pretty genuine”, pointing out they come from various places including Cameroon and Belgium.
Together with his crew, Mr Fenech said he was invited by the Libyan government after contact was made through Dr Mifsud Bonnici, who has been critical of Nato interference and who called on Malta to mediate the crisis.
Although he spends most of the time in the Rixos hotel, where international media are also staying, Mr Fenech says he goes out every day, escorted by a representative from the Libyan government who “organises” his trips.
“They are treating me very well. I don’t feel under any sort of pressure. I can use internet freely,” he added.
Mr Fenech says he also met a Maltese man who has remained in Libya since the conflict started in February.
“The feeling here is that the Maltese have betrayed the Libyans,” Mr Fenech said, adding, when asked, that those who told him this identified themselves as pro-Gaddafi.
“I spoke to people in the street... in the market. They were very angry at Nato for bombing people. These people weren’t brought to me.”
He says he has been shown some harrowing images of mutilated bodies, which the government claims are atrocities committed by the rebels. He was also shown bombed out sites like the building housing the Broadcasting Authority.
Mr Fenech says he attended a press conference with the second secretary of Foreign Affairs who told him he was a bit hurt about Malta’s behaviour in the crisis.
“They feel Malta didn’t really help out,” he added.
Asked if he felt he was presenting a fair picture, he said: “I’m in Tripoli and I’m presenting the picture given to me here. I’m just here reporting what I can report. Obviously it’s limited. But compared with what the Western media is showing, the situation in Tripoli is much, much calmer.”
“All we’ve seen on the western media is pro-rebel. There is another side, I can tell you. I feel very safe here, except for the planes in the background,” he says, adding that although Nato bombings tend to target specific targets, they “occasionally” also bombed civilians.
He says the biggest problems being faced by residents is the shortage of fuel, with long queues of cars for miles.
“My opinion is that it is not as bad as the media have portrayed it. The city feels relatively safe,” he said, adding that if Maltese workers want to return, he is sure they would be welcomed back.