If you believe the stories being published in media for the last couple of months, Libyan dictator has already lost the conflict to rebels who are poised to capture Tripoli anytime. According to these stories, the rebels have been preparing to make celebrations of their victory and Qaddafi is on his way out. The latest account of the conflict which appeared in Time, says that hundreds of euphoric Libyan rebels danced and cheered after they overran a major military base that defends Tripoli on Sunday, driving out elite forces led by Muammar Qaddafi’s son in a brief gun-battle. The fighters hauled off truckloads of weapons and advanced full speed toward the capital in pickup trucks and even on foot, as the trappings of the regime crumbled fast.
The Time story also reports that inside Tripoli, there was a second day of widespread clashes between what the opposition called “sleeping cells” of rebels who are rising up and Qaddafi loyalists. There were also large anti-government protests. An Associated Press reporter with the rebels rapidly advancing toward Tripoli saw them take over the base of the Khamis Brigade, 16 miles west of Tripoli. After a brief gun-battle, Qaddafi’s forces fled what was once a major symbol of the regime’s power. Inside the base, hundreds of rebels cheered wildly and danced, raising the rebel flag on the front gate of a large, gray wall enclosing the compound. They seized large stores of weapons, driving away with truckloads of whatever arms they could get their hands on. One of the rebels carried off a tube of grenades, while another carted off two mortars.
These stories are apparently being filed by embedded media men whose dispatches are based on eye-witness accounts from the “other side”. But other eye-witnesses-based independent accounts have a different story to narrate. According to these accounts, heavy gunfire and explosions have been reported in the Libyan capital, but the gunfire is sporadic and the explosions heard are victory celebrations of Qaddafi loyalists. Independent journalist Lizzie Phelan says the reports are an effort by NATO to create panic.
“The only gunfire that we are hearing is celebratory gunfire,” she said. “And the only explosions that we are hearing are NATO air strikes or NATO sound bombs, which are clearly designed to create a sense of panic in the capital city of Tripoli.”
Phelan said that the Libyan rebels created fake footage of themselves in Zawiya and Tripoli, and were aided in disseminating the footage by, among other media outlets, Al Jazeera. The Qatar-based satellite television station, she argued, has been at the center of the media conspiracy against Libya. The Western mainstream media, she continued, in turn picked up these reports and repeated them, creating a sense of panic among the Libyan people.
“Later on in the areas like Soug Jomaa, after the prayers, a number of armed gangs emerged, which are essentially sleeper cells of rebels inside the city, and began firing randomly and threatening ordinary people, that if they did not join them they would be assassinated,” she said. “They then took footage of the empty streets, which created the sense that they were in the process of capturing the city.”
Many people in Tripoli have been armed by the government and these people came out to defend their capital, she added.
“The government spokesman came out and insisted that the situation had been brought under control,” Phelan claimed. “As a result, now in Green Square the masses have come out because they feel safe again and they are letting off celebratory gunfire and fireworks. Muammar Gaddafi spoke to the masses live via phone, because there have been reports that he fled the country.”
The outcome of the Battle of Tripoli is yet to determine the authenticity of these conflicting reports, but these reports determine one thing beyond doubt; the first round of the conflict has been won by the media.