In Libya, Truth is the Biggest Ammunition

There is a thin red line between being an intelligence officer and an investigative journalist. 

As an intelligence officer, your job is to travel extensively, gain people's trust in order to extract information, and convince them to do things they wouldn’t normally do. At the same time, you must maintain secrecy and not reveal any details to the public for fear of compromising national security. When it comes time for you to present this information, you must also conduct a risk assessment and provide a forecast of expected patterns. Life is like a jigsaw puzzle and your job is to put all the pieces together.

As an investigative journalist, you don’t convince people to do anything other than tell you their story, to see the world from their eyes. You seek the truth and present it to the public. As a journalist your loyalty isn’t to a flag but to your audience.

I graduated with a degree in international security, majoring in counterterrorism, joined the Australian army reserves, packed my bags, and headed to the Middle East to report.

I work for Free Libya TV, Libya’s first non state-owned channel. It is something I am very proud to be a part of. This is the first time since Muammar Gaddafi took power that the Libyans now have a free and independent voice.

Dodging live ammunition and tear gas in the streets of Cairo in complete darkness — with my camera in one hand and my other hand covering my mouth to avoid the smoke — was an experience I will never forget. Working in the newsroom of Free Libya TV is far calmer than that demonstration, but we have been able to unleash a more powerful weapon; we are now able to broadcast the truth.

Under constant attack by Gaddafi loyalists and members of his regime, journalists have received personal threats and the government has visited our homes. Our broadcasting headquarters has also been subject to numerous sabotage attempts. It is for this reason our location must be kept a complete secret.

Although the newsroom is further from the action than the streets of Tripoli or Benghazi, I have directly witnessed the struggle of the Libyan people. Since Tripoli was liberated by the revolutionaries, I have watched Libyans cry and rejoice as their quest for independence is almost complete.

The day when revolutionary forces took over Bab Al Azizya — Gaddafi’s compound — I felt a sense of pride for my work. On August 24, I watched live as young men climbed on top of Gaddafi's iconic sculpture depicting a hand squeezing a U.S. fighter plane to hang the revolutionary flag and claim victory over such a symbol of hate and repression, Gaddafi’s Iron fist. From that day, I knew the fate of Libya is now with the people.

By supporting the plight of the revolutionaries, I have found the harshest critics to come from the West regarding the Libyan cause. I have met with countless people who try to discredit the revolution as nothing more as an "Arab against Arab’"conflict, perpetuated by Western interference.

I have received countless hate mail and comments on Facebook for my support of the Libyan people and my anti-Gaddafi stance. I have been accused of being a bloodthirsty warmonger,
"slave to NATO and Western imperialism" by people who claim to be journalists. 

It saddens me as an individual, but also as a journalist, that people abroad are so eager to dismiss Libya’s struggle for freedom. More so, how media are so adamant to continue to call the revolutionaries, “rebels.”

I work with these people every day. I work with individuals who, for the first time in their lives, are putting their heart and soul into something they believe in. 

All the blood, sweat, and tears the Libyan people have shed have not been for a fruitless battle. The countless men who have sacrificed their lives, have done it for the sake of their homeland. Every morning I wake up with a passion for what I do as I know I am playing a role, no matter how small, in freeing Libya.

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Pickworth

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Elizabeth Pickworth

Elizabeth Pickworth is a journalist from Australia with a postgraduate degree in International Security majoring in Counterterrorism. She is currently based in the Middle East and undertaking research for her PhD.

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