This post is part of our special coverage Libya Uprising 2011.
Libyan president Muammar Al Gaddafi gave an 8-minute phone interview to Serbian TV Pink on February 28, describing Libya as “an absolutely peaceful” country and declaring its rebellious people “Al Qaida gangs.” He spoke of unrestrained and drugged groups of young people who occupied mosques, intimidating visitors:
They fired at a mosque with machine guns. The young people were moving through the streets, firing from Kalashnikovs. [...] They were shooting at anything that moves. Whoever was moving, they would kill him. If someone opposed them, they would slaughter him the way [Zarqawi] did. Without any doubt, these gangs are Al Qaeda. [...]
Gaddafi also referred to the story of the alleged participation of Serbian military pilots in the bombing of protesters, calling it a failed attempt of bad propaganda placed by the (unnamed) Arab media outlets. He suggested that a Serbian pilot had been offered money to falsely accuse the Libyan army of ordering him to shoot at the people:
An Arab station was in contact with a Serbian Air Force officer named Daniel. They were trying to bribe him into saying that Libya sought the planes of Serbia to attack its citizens. They told him: “Say that and you'll get the money.”
TV Pink also ran a short report from Tripoli, showing scenes that fit Gaddafi's description of a “peaceful Libya”: sunlit streets with palm trees, luxury cars and relaxed residents sitting in local street cafés. Life looks completely normal, including at a residential block that had otherwise reportedly been bombed by Gaddafi's forces.
TV Pink, Serbian national consciousness
Undoubtedly, Gaddafi has chosen the right channel for his appearance. TV Pink is one of the most popular national TV networks that mainly runs entertainment content (reality shows, music, soap operas). In the '90s, its greatest popularity came with local prophets and astrologists.
TV Pink was founded during the reign of Slobodan Milosevic. The owner of TV Pink, Zeljko Mitrovic, was a member of JUL, a political party led by Milosevic's wife, Mira Markovic. In this period, a friendship with Zoran Lilic, the former President of Yugoslavia and a Milosevic supporter, was formed, and it is rumored that he was the one who helped arrange the “exclusive” interview with Gaddafi.
Where is the blood?
Reactions to the interview were naturally varied, but comments on one Serbian internet forum, Krstarica [SRB], also showed several confused citizens who, lacking access to images of violence from Tripoli, accepted Gaddafi's statements as truth.
In a discussion thread titled “Libya is peaceful, world media are spreading lies,” Yamamoto writes:
People who stayed there, as well as those who arrived by “rescue” planes, testify that they do not understand what images we are seeing. All of them deny the intensity of the events in Libya.
Bernard O observes:
Pink's TV records confirm that some buildings are intact, although, according to CNN, they were destroyed in the criminal bombing of Gaddafi's army.
Jevropa sadly notes:
This is a splendid country. Now, the world's scum will come to destroy all this man has created and to make the people poor despite [the country's] wealth.
Pedjica tries to be realistic:
I am not sure how the rest of the country lives. I saw Tripoli on Pink. I saw cars no older than [the year] 2000, the buildings are relatively new, and it is a beautiful city. As far as I could see. The truth is probably somewhere in between!
To remind fellow netizens of how good life in Libya supposedly is, Caliburn posts an excerpt from a recent Serbian newspaper story, which is titled “Libyans Live Like Gods” and is based on a testimony of Dragan Gordic, a Serb who has lived in Libya for years:
I do not believe that the riots broke out because of dissatisfaction. They have no reason to be dissatisfied because they live like gods… They do not work much, and they come to the office around 9 A.M. and already at noon they go home to pray, and that happens five times during the day… They have free medical treatment, education, electricity, and all food products are 30-40 percent cheaper than at home. Everyone who wants to study abroad just needs to write a request and they receive a scholarship from the authorities. About 5 million people have registered 15 million cars. In general, these are expensive and good cars, and they have easy access to them because for a 50,000-euro car you pay 3,000 or 4,000 euro, and the rest is subsidized by the state.
Reactions on Burek.com [SRB] also confirm that President Gaddafi and TV Pink have convinced many Serbian people that Libyans have no reason to revolt.
Smook has an idealized view of Libya:
Statements of our citizens who have resided and worked in Libya absolutely match. They say that phone is free, electricity is free, and interest-free loans for up to 10 years are available. Housing is provided by the state or its price is symbolic. For a few dollars you fill your car's tank. [...]
RawenClaw 3190900 warns:
His tribe is one of the three largest in Libya. Any conflict with them turns into a civil war.
The reporting in the domestic media on the developments in Libya is striking. “The dictator Gaddafi, towns liberated from the government forces, hundreds of victims of the dictatorship” and much related nonsense. Now, given that Serbia is a “banana republic” under the patronage of our famous “democratic” and “friendly” forces, we have the answer as to who is trying to manage this crisis in Libya…
Vale on CafedelMontenegro says:
Cheap food, cheap fuel, education and health care for free. Very soon, they will come to grieve for Gaddafi. Our people who lived and worked there know it best. May God give us Gaddafi's government for 40 years.
Pink TV or CNN
Those most outraged by the fact that the Serbian channel gave the Libyan dictator such a prominent public political platform, are mainly gathered on the B92 web site:
It is a quite accepted fact that Pink is in the service of Gaddafi. They also faithfully served Slobodan (Milosevic) and Mira (Markovic). “People are sitting in cafes sipping the coffee.” It was same here where I lived in the time of (NATO) bombing. People were sitting in the cafes and they were drinking their beer, but it does not mean that there was no bombing. In the center of the city that was not bombed people were very relaxed, but nearby, close to the factory that was bombed, people left their homes and went out of town…
Gaddafi communicates with the outside world through Serbia to the hysterical delight of his fans in Serbia, and to the outrage of normal people.
Nikon Savest says:
If Pink interviewed Kim Jong Il he would certainly say that in North Korea roses are flowering, the economic growth is 20% and all people enjoy freedom.
The man who used tanks and air crafts against its own nation deserves only loathing. It is no wonder the fact that Serbs love and support him, given that Milosevic, gravedigger of his own people was able to survive so long in power.
Terenac is sarcastic:
It's not true that only we Serbians support him. With him are also all those mercenaries he hired to fight for him.
Sava, a Serb who was evacuated from Libya, attempts to present an ideal picture of Gaddafi's “kingdom” as the opponent of all the anti-Gaddafi comments above:
I returned to Serbia in yesterday's evacuation of Serbian workers from Libya. I would like to deny a false picture of events in Libya that have been shown in some of our media. In the town where I lived it was a very quiet, to the point that children normally went to the school, shops were open and people moved freely. Libyans with whom I worked tried to convince me that people are with Gaddafi… Our people have already experienced the same scenario so that everyone is clear about how propaganda works. I hope that everything will finish as soon as possible and that everyone, including your news agency [B92], will show the true picture of events in Libya.