US, Haftar and the Chronic Case of Fake News in Libya

Fabricated statements from the US Embassy are divulged by Libyan media outlets

Information has been circulating on social media since Thursday, April 4th regarding the United States’ position towards the Libyan National Army operation to seize Tripoli named “Flood of Dignity” and orchestrated by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

218NEWS, a popular Libyan media outlet, has allegedly fabricated statements from the US Embassy denying the US condemnation against Haftar’s operation. A reliable US government source familiar with the matter spoke to Libya Desk on condition of anonymity, confirming that the US has in fact reprimanded Haftar, both on April 4th and on April 5th.

Above, a social media post by 218NEWS with what appears to be a fabricated statement from the US Embassy denying their condemnation against Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

Above, a social media post by 218NEWS with what appears to be a fabricated statement from the US Embassy denying their condemnation against Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

Nevertheless, because the message to Haftar was not published on the US Embassy website, Arabic media outlets have described it as “inauthentic” and have been denying that any such statements were made.

US factually opposes Operation 'Dignity' for fear of Civil War and Oil Disruption

In attempt to clarify the matter, Libya Desk has acquired documents used to steer US conversations with Haftar. Our source in the US Embassy has claimed copies of the following letter - which was used to address communications with Haftar - were sent to all the media outlets that are currently denying the statement and making false allegations regarding the US position towards the military operation underway in Libya.

Above, the Arabic translation of the points made by US diplomats to Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar in their latest communications. It is worth noting that the views related by the United States in this document reflect its current view on the escalation of violence in Libya. Such a view is liable to change as Libya’s current state is extremely fluid, so US policy could change to reflect developments on the ground.  Source:    Libya Desk

Above, the Arabic translation of the points made by US diplomats to Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar in their latest communications. It is worth noting that the views related by the United States in this document reflect its current view on the escalation of violence in Libya. Such a view is liable to change as Libya’s current state is extremely fluid, so US policy could change to reflect developments on the ground.
Source: Libya Desk

The statement made by the US government to Libya’s renegade general Khalifa Haftar echoed the UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ sentiment on April 5th, highlighting that the US is extremely disturbed by the current escalation of violence in and around the capital.

Moreover, the letter states that the US does not support LNA operations, which the US believes “could negatively impact the joint US-Libya war on terrorism”, as well as putting civilian lives at stake and further harming the Libyan economy by contributing to a slowdown in oil production.

The statement calls on Haftar’s forces to withdraw to their initial territories and reiterates its support to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General Ghassan Salamé by stressing that there is “no military solution in Libya, just a political solution”.

Above, Special Representative of the Secretary-General Ghassan Salamé. Salamé was appointed Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya on June 22nd, 2017.

Above, Special Representative of the Secretary-General Ghassan Salamé. Salamé was appointed Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya on June 22nd, 2017.

The problem with politicising media outlets in Libya

Sadly, this is the state of the media in Libya today, an information landscape characterised by privately owned outlets such as 218NEWS (owned by Aref Al Nayed) that will often distort the nature of key developments in the region to fulfil their own agendas, as is the case in the incident reported above.

Just as Libya suffers from false prophets that come in the form of politicians, the international community is equally hindered by fake news outlets, ‘specialists’ and ‘experts’ that claim a monopoly on “all things Libya”. Social media is flooded with ‘concrete conclusions’ and ‘insights’ that too often are heavily relied upon by parties dealing with Libya, both nationally and internationally.

In a country where the only absolute is that there is no absolute, we must respond to the weaponization of media by assessing the situation objectively and not jumping to definitives before properly fact-checking media claims.


For more info and analysis, follow @LibyaDesk on Twitter or subscribe to Libya Desk Memos to receive a curated selection of insights and updates from Libya, delivered straight to your inbox every month.