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Sunday, April 10, 2016

Coverage of the "dissolution" of the Tripoli-based GNC government

As the UN-brokered Government of National Accord, led by PM-designate Faiez Serraj, begins to establish more power in Tripoli and western Libya, the mainstream western media are beginning to take some notice of events in Libya.

This article will analyze CNN's recent coverage of the reported dissolution of the Tripoli-based General National Congress (GNC), a rival to the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) in the east of Libya. CNN repeats an account also found in the Libya Observer. Both accounts note that the statement came from Libya's Justice Ministry. The Observer adds that it was on the Ministry's Facebook page. Neither report bothers to note that a report that the Tripoli or Salvation Government as it calls itself is dissolved should surely come from the official government itself, not a ministry. The CNN report reads as follows:
The self-declared, Islamist-leaning National Salvation Government, headquartered in the capital, Tripoli, said in a statement it was ceasing its work in the "supreme interest of the nation," in a move to prevent further violence and division and remove the capital "from the specter of armed conflict." "We inform you that we are stopping our work as an executive power, as the presidency, members of parliament and ministers of the government," read the statement published by Libya's Justice Ministry on Monday.
The statement probably represents an attempt by Ministry officials to force the government to hand over power. The PM of the government,Khalifa Ghweil, sanctioned by the EU, issued his own statement contradicting the announcement: "Given the requirements of public interest... you are requested to continue your mission in accordance with the law." He even threatened to prosecute anyone who works with the new government. Alarabiya also reports on Ghweil's statement. The CNN account does not include it.
The Observer account gives more background to what has happened. It notes that on March 29 the Salvation Government issued a statement in which it described the Presidential Council members who came to Tripoli as infiltrators and said they should go back to Tunis. A later statement, on March 31, said the government decided to pass all legislative issues and decisions to the GNC. It said the GNC is the only legitimate authority in Libya and should do as it sees fit. The CNN article fails even to note that the GNC still exists. Even the contested declaration of the Justice Ministry says nothing about the GNC, just the associated government.
The CNN article cites Maher Shami, spokesperson for the HoR, as saying the government there is not ready to cede power to the GNA because "it was not properly consulted on the transfer of power." This makes it sound as if somehow it is merely a demand that it be consulted on the transfer of power that is at issue. This is quite wrong. It is one of the requirements of the Libya Political Agreement (LPA) that the GNA receive a vote of confidence by the HoR before its term even begins. Reading CNN one would never have an inkling that there might be something wrong in the GNA even claiming power. There is nothing in the CNN report about Khalifa Haftar, or the HoR demand that he stay on as commander-in-chief of the Libyan National Army. All we learn is that the HoR wants proper consultation on the transfer of power. There is no mention of the fact that if Haftar is not kept on as commander-in-chief, eastern Libya could separate.
Although the CNN is reporting on the dissolution of the Salvation Government, it has nothing to say about the meeting of the State Council of the GNA that met in a Tripoli hotel. There, the State Council decided that they were also the General National Congress and dissolved it and then unanimously passed a resolution approving the GNA and amending the Constitutional Declaration of 2011. They have no power to do the latter. There is nothing of Abusahmain's condemnation of the meeting and its actions or threats of court action.
The CNN report, as with many mainstream reports, is not so much wrong as simply misleading since it leaves out important information necessary to understand what is happening. The Salvation Government and the GNC might as well have dissolved as they do not seem to have any power but the CNN account does not give the reader any idea of what is behind the failure of the HoR to relinquish power and neglects the fact the General Haftar is a key player in any solution to the problems in the east.

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