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Sintra Press Photo

Sintra Press Photo

"Nightwalkers" exhibited at Sintra Press Photo in Portugal

Hearts & Minds

When I crossed into Libya, the rebels manning the border were happy to see foreign journalists coming into the country. The armed men at the checkpoints would smile and give a “V for victory” salute as our car drove through their barricades, en-route to Benghazi.

Around the city, graffiti would thank Al-Jazeera, CNN, the BBC. Television screens had brought the plight of those in Benghazi to the world stage, as well as having offered inspiration from their coverage of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions.

The rebels liked journalists.

In a burned out building on Benghazi’s corniche, over-looking the Mediterranean, a set of offices had been cleaned out and dedicated to the new national, and foreign, press. The “Media Centre of Rebels”.

They issued Heath-Robinson press cards, bearing the tricolour of the Sanussi-era flag. And more importantly, they could arrange drivers and translators. A willing little army of young, educated, English- and French-speaking volunteers was keen to get their first taste of The Press.

There was also another army of volunteers, surrounded by slogans in both Arabic and in English, claiming an end to Qaddafi’s rule, cataloguing his errors and his crimes. The building was filled with caricatures, political slogans and “fact-boxes”. Some of these posters and placards would later be out in the street, protesting against Qaddafi, and raising the morale of the Benghazians. And of course, splashed across the pages of the international press.