Dr. Miral Sabry AlAshry
Last week, an ongoing disinformation campaign was launched to deceive the Libyans about the news circulating about the imminent announcement of a new road map that includes freezing the work of the House of Representatives and the High Council of State, while the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has denied that news circulating and UNSMIL says that all the reports circulated by the media about a new road map are only part of a disinformation campaign.
We have become aware of a fabricated story in local and regional news networks announcing a roadmap to elections in Libya by SRSG Abdoulaye Bathily.
UNSMIL urges all media networks to rely on the Mission’s official website for accurate and authentic news and announcements. That content was created and fueled by foreign actors in Libya, which adds to the confusion about reform and a democratic roadmap. Difficulty in identifying the truth has fueled demoralisation and distrust among many Libyans.
Nested within Libya’s ongoing civil war are a fog of falsehoods, distortions about reform towards a democratic roadmap through the elections, the fake elections by Parliament and its preparation of the Constitution, and polarising narratives that have engulfed Libyan social media networks and online news outlets.
Libya’s conflict pits the United Nations-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) against militias aligned with warlord Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), which controls the east. For destabilising purposes, supported by Egypt, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, they publish overrunning digital spaces with disinformation to control the entire community.
Haftar’s forces have sought to gain an advantage in their struggle by sowing confusion about the motives and tactics of rival groups while making it more difficult to obtain information that may cost the LNA popular support among ordinary Libyans.
Due to that, the Security Council’s SRSG Bathily emphasised his intention to intensify negotiations through constructive engagement with all stakeholders to lead to the holding of successful elections, including the HoR and HCS, to facilitate an inclusive and transparent settlement of the most contentious issues in the draught electoral laws prepared by the 6+6, and to ensure these draught laws are implementable.
Khalifa Haftar’s has been aided by online firms tied to Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin and his Wagner Group of Russian mercenaries, who have published divisive narratives between two governments on Libya’s social media networks. Bathily is seeking, through his efforts every month, to reach a comprehensive agreement on controversial issues in the electoral bills to ensure their applicability in preparation for successful elections.
Going back to 2014, there were large networks of UAE and Saudi fake Twitter and Facebook accounts that were actively crowding out actual local voices by posting, creating hashtag traffic for, and amplifying nationalistic sentiments in Libya. Beginning in 2019, thousands of these accounts were mobilised to glorify Haftar and his military campaign. and the EU involved itself in foreign-backed efforts to undermine the formation of an informed and democratically engaged public in Libya’s digital spaces.
In addition, the United Nations Support Mission established a higher financial committee to address basic issues in public spending and the fair distribution of resources. This step would provide equal opportunities for all candidates in the upcoming elections by the end of 2023, as well as transparency in the spending of public funds and a fair distribution of national resources.
Dr. Miral Sabry AlAshry is Vice Dean at Future University in Egypt (FUE), and Chairwoman of Alumni in the Middle East at DW Deutsche Welle Akademie.