Campaigners are pressing for the closure of Gaddafi’s propaganda channel, Libya State TV as a non-violent complement to the effort to protect the Libyan people.
The remit of the Allies is to protect the people. The effect of the Allied action is to produce a level playing field by removing Ghaddafi’s heavy weapons. The Allies are overlooking one heavy weapon that Gaddafi has in use on a daily basis: his TV station Al Jamahira 2 State TV.
Gaddafi uses his TV station to project his delusions to his supporters, to influence and control the thoughts and opinions of his supporters. It is clearly inappropriate for a deluded individual who is declared to have lost his legitimacy as a ruler to be permitted to spread his delusions through a TV station, especially when they result in delaying the successful end of the Libyan crisis.
Nilesat is Ghaddafi’s main TV service provider. They are located in Egypt. It would simply take a certain amount of diplomatic pressure to get them agree to deny service to him. There would not be any need to bomb transmission masts.
The importance of Ghaddafi’s broadcasts to his war effort should not be under-estimated. We have seen the blatant misinformation that his ministers put out with regard to a “ceasefire”. Recent examples of Libya State TV misinformation is that the huge demonstration in London on March 26th was not against Osborne’s cuts, but against the UN intervention in Libya. They also described Eman al-Obeidy, the lawyer who was dragged out of the reporters’ hotel, as a prostitute, drunk and thief.
Libyans are subjected to this propaganda every time they turn on the TV. He maintains his supporters’ morale with his TV broadcasts, and affects their cognitive framework with misinformation.
If his broadcasts were stopped, it is reasonable to expect that support for Ghaddafi would diminish among the Libyan people. If families of loyalist soldiers no longer express enthusiasm for Ghaddafi, morale among his soldiers will be reduced. Blank TV screens would be a symbol to loyalists that Ghaddafi is losing control. There would also be a positive net effect on world opinion, since some broadcasters are using Libyan State TV as if it were a reliable news source.
It might even be possible for the Allies to use Nilesat, Gaddafi’s transmitter, to broadcast accurate information to all Libyan people.
In summary, this is an action that is non-violent, cost-free and can reasonably be expected to help to shorten the length of our engagement in Libya.
I have heard no substantive arguments against this line of action, though I imagine there may be some kind of gentleman’s agreement among governments along the lines of “I will not jam your signal if you will not jam mine”. Clearly this convention no longer holds now that Ghaddafi is subject to a UN R2P action and no longer seen as a legitimate ruler.
There is a 533 member Facebook group campaigning to get Nilesat to withdraw service.
[Update: Hansard on Monday 28 March:
Duncan Hames (Chippenham) (LD): It is not just tanks and planes that Gaddafi uses against his own people but the poisonous propaganda on Libyan state TV carried on NileSat, which threatens to undermine hopes for future peace in that country. What can be done to ensure that all Libyans, especially those in Tripoli, can access independent media on which to base their understanding of current events?
The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman makes a vitally important point. We want to do everything we can to try to make sure that people can access independent media, which have had a huge impact on these events. But also, frankly, we should take a tougher approach to Libyan state television, which, as far as I can see, is actually working on behalf of the regime that is terrorising and brutalising its own civilians. The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point that we should pursue urgently.