The Paris correspondent for a leading Brazilian newspaper recounts his experience covering the Libyan revolution.
During the eight-month conflict that deposed Muammar Gaddafi (1942-2011), 32 journalists were imprisoned, 15 kidnapped, 30 expelled and 11 killed. Measured against these sobering statistics, Netto counts his own eight-day imprisonment as trifling. Still, the pages devoted to his isolation in one of Gaddafi’s jail cells powerfully convey the desperate uncertainties engendered by a lawless regime under which the whim of the dictator controlled the country for more than 40 years. Trying to follow up conflicting reports coming out of Libya about a possible rebellion and after numerous frustrated attempts to cross the Tunisian border, Netto entered the country illegally. Betrayed by one of his rebel escorts, he ended up in the hands of loyalists torn between their contempt for journalists and their need to appear unflustered by the revolt. Once released and deported, Netto made it back to Libya months later, in time to report on the fall of Tripoli and the capture and killing of Gaddafi, “the Osama bin Laden of the 1980s.” Given the sudden and frightening interruption of his mission, it’s not surprising that those portions of his narrative recounting the various international responses to the Libyan crisis, crucial as they proved for the insurgency’s eventual success, lack the punch of his on-the-scene reporting. Nevertheless, whenever and wherever he’s on the ground in Libya, Netto delivers some first-rate reporting, including interviews of various rebel fighters and eyewitness accounts of horrific scenes no doubt the result of rebel-committed war crimes. He also manages to expose another of the Gaddafi regime’s many lies: He confirms that Hana, the tyrant’s daughter, long thought killed by a 1986 Reagan-ordered air strike, has been alive and working as a doctor and hospital administrator all this time. Notwithstanding the current political chaos in Libya, Netto concludes with some hopeful words about the country’s future.
A courageous and well-informed piece of journalism.