Judge and Jury: Libya goes into PR overdrive to rehabilitate its national image - A press trip to Libya left PR Week news editor Juliette Garside with the distinct impression that less would have definitely achieved more in the PR stakes

In the first two weeks of September more than 500 journalists visited Libya to attend an international investment conference, followed by the celebrations of the 30th anniversary of leader Muammar Gadaffi’s rise to power, and a meeting of 20 African heads of state.

In the first two weeks of September more than 500 journalists

visited Libya to attend an international investment conference, followed

by the celebrations of the 30th anniversary of leader Muammar Gadaffi’s

rise to power, and a meeting of 20 African heads of state.



Libya has turned away from its long-standing alliance with the rest of

the Arab world in favour of a closer relationship with sub-Saharan

Africa.



It is also keen to attract investors and, ultimately, tourists. To this

end, Gadaffi has been rebuilding bridges between Libya and the West.



As PR exercises go, the two-week schedule was costly. The Libyan

government bought many journalists’ airline tickets, and provided

accommodation for the African leaders, their entourages, and troupes of

performers from across the continent.



A better planned and targeted schedule could have achieved more with

fewer resources. Despite the armies of officials from the ministry of

information and the ministry for the advancement of the Green Book,

Gadaffi’s manifesto, Tripoli was not able to cope with the

onslaught.



The group I arrived with was left to fester for a day waiting to be

found rooms, and the press centre in the hotel where most journalists

were housed was often paralysed by the absence of outside telephone

lines.



The African heads of state, and reporters who chose to attend, were

subjected to a five hour military parade, which achieved little except

sunburn.



The unveiling of a ’rocket’ car, described by the Guardian as a

’Batmobile’, which Gadaffi and his son helped to design, was greeted

with ridicule by the UK press.



And when Gadaffi made an impromptu appearance at the investment

conference, he compared capitalism to ’stealing the family jewels’.



These mishaps aside, the message of Libya’s realignment with Africa came

across loud and clear. Gadaffi’s call for a ’United States of Africa’

could have been alarming, but none of the African leaders publicly took

offence and he was widely welcomed by his new allies.



The pictures of Gadaffi embracing a visiting Nelson Mandela during the

summer did more for his image than anything that has happened since, but

this month’s celebrations underlined that Libya is on a gradual course

of rehabilitation into the international community.



Although Gadaffi’s image has a way to go - the Sunday Times profiled him

on 9 September under the headline ’Tyrant in a comic opera disguise’ -

Libya succeeded in portrayng itself as a peaceful and prosperous country

- music to any investor’s ears.



Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in