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The voice of Libya's rebellion is up and spinning

The burgeoning radio, TV and press empire of the rebels in eastern Libya is giving Moammar Kadafi's foes information and outlets many have never had. Not that the coverage is exactly balanced.

April 07, 2011|By David Zucchino, Los Angeles Times

The rebel message is also spread by vendors selling the red, black and green pre-Kadafi Libyan flag used by the rebels and bumper stickers with revolutionary slogans. They also offer flag decals, buttons, lapel pins and hats. Some vendors sell the French tricolor, a nod to France's diplomatic recognition of the rebel government and its leading role in airstrikes against Kadafi's fighters.

In a chilly second-story room at the courthouse, young artists churn out caricatures of Kadafi and posters lampooning the Libyan leader, especially his unruly hair and sartorial flourishes. Some posters feature him as a monkey, rat or donkey. Others depict him with horns or trailed by houseflies, often clutching bags of loot.

A few posters depict the Star of David, reflecting the pervasive belief among rebels that Kadafi's mother was Jewish. It is not meant as a compliment.

Rebel propaganda isn't confined to graffiti and posters. Ibrahim Bugaighis, a bank employee and rebel council volunteer, has adorned his silver Mitsubishi sedan with gruesome photos of government fighters killed by allied airstrikes.

"You could say this is my Facebook page," he said.

A few miles away, at the rebels' AM radio station, a cramped two-man studio has been built from plywood and Plexiglas in a dilapidated building that once housed the regime's transmitting station. The government's modern radio studio nearby was burned and looted during street battles in February.

Inside the jury-rigged studio, a volunteer technician, Essam Ali, monitored the day's broadcast on AM 675 as a red "ON AIR" sign blinked. He sat before a scuffed, pre-digital-era mixing board and wore a 1970s-era headset.

Another volunteer, Abdullah Haneid, a burly, bearded fellow who quit his job as a government radio engineer two years ago, supervised the shoestring operation.

"We try to assure the people that we are all connected, that there is order and that we have a plan," Haneid said. "This is an important job for us."

Over the air, an imam railed against Libyans who have sought foreign military intervention against Kadafi. Good Muslims should fight jihad on their own, he instructed.

As the broadcast droned on, Haneid showed a visitor a storage area next to the little studio. Inside was a dusty old transmitter.

It broadcast the very first speech by a young army officer after he seized power in a 1969 coup, Haneid explained. His name was Moammar Kadafi.

"This carried the voice of the 1969 revolution," Haneid said with satisfaction. "Now here we are in the same place, spreading the word of our own revolution."

david.zucchino@latimes.com

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