On assignment in Libya

10/08/2018 Posted by admin

by Barry Acton

Here is a little bit on how we got to Libya, and my first impressions of the people we have met.

To me, one of the most impressive things about Libya is the people. The people we have met here have been so welcoming, with food, water, lodgings, etc. They seem so happy to have found some form of liberty, freedom and expression. Maybe that is why they are so kind to us — they want us to get the message out. I hope the euphoria lasts.

I’m currently in Benghazi, Lybia.

Tom Popyk and I met at the airport in New Delhi, and headed for Bahrain. After covering Bahrain for a few days, we flew to Cairo, where we awaited word to make the long drive from Cairo to Libya.

At the border town of Sallum we witnessed the flood of people looking to escape Libya. People had everything they could carry with them and the lineup of vans to take them to safety must have been two kilometres long.

Sallum is not a big town. It has only two modest hotels, both of which were fully booked. After filing our stories, we headed back down the highway away from the border where we were able to find a place to sleep.

The next morning, we headed back to the border and after some discussion through a fixer, we crossed into Libya. There was no one to greet us except a former colonel who had switched allegiances and was himself a character.

Next stop was Bardiyah. A small protest happened just after noon prayers. The drivers were nervous so we had to make some new plans. After switching vehicles, we were off again to Torbruk. The tension eased the farther we got into Libya, even more when we saw the celebrations and the former flag of Libya flying everywhere we went.

In Tobruk, we secured our accommodations in a very nice tourist hotel. It was quite the contrast to the previous night’s accommodations when we had a mattress and not much else.

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The next stop was the town square. When we emerged from the vehicles, the celebrations seemed to kick into high gear. It seems that we, media, are something of a circus here – and everyone loves a circus, don’t they?

Gunfire of the celebratory kind rang out, chanting and car horns blasting in an almost musical rhythm. The most surprising thing was the lack of women. It appears that the old practice of having women stay invisible, and not allowed out except with a male member of the family, still holds.

The next morning, the discussion was whether or not to push on to Benghazi – the second-largest city in Libya, on the shores of the Mediterranean sea. To head there, we should have left four hours before, at 9:00 AM, but we started in that direction nonetheless.

Drivers were a big obstacle, doubling their rates to $400 U.S. When a more reasonable fee of $200 was agreed upon, we hit the road. Sandstorm, rain and wind – we must have had every kind of weather in the five-hour drive. We checked in to the Tibesty Hotel, proceeded to get caught up on the day and filed our stories.

The last several days have been like Groundhog Day. Get up, head out and gather material, talk to people who have witnessed the fighting, lost relatives or friends, get video of demonstrations and keep an eye on what Moammar Gadhafi is up to. Toss it all in the bowl, mix it up and serve up a story and get it fed to Global National on time.

Barry is Global National’s photojournalist, based in Beijing.He is currentlycovering the unfolding situation in Egypt. You can follow Barry on Twitter: @BActonGlobal.

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