Despite the ongoing conflict, limited sources of funding and growing concerns around journalists’ safety, the Media Lab has been providing practical journalism training and internships since March 2014.
Located inside the University of Tripoli and supported by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), the Lab has trained more than 1,000 students over the past three years. Recently, it also offered media and communications training to 76 employees of the Ministry of Communication and Media which has been established under the aegis of the Government of National Accord.
The Media Lab’s project manager, Dr Khaled Gulam, says, “Study programmes in media and journalism are mainly theory-oriented with almost no practical skills. The Media Lab is filling this important gap.”
Since the 2011 Revolution, Libya’s media environment has gone through dramatic changes with a rapidly growing private media sector in need of qualified and experienced professionals. Since early 2014, 387 newspapers and magazines, 20 television channels and 200 radio stations have been registered by the Press Authority.
The Media Lab has expanded in response to increasing demands for media training. New radio and TV studios have been created in the last three months, with minimal funding and a great deal of creativity.
“Our TV studio is located inside the library. We share this area with other members of the university which works for now, but my dream is to offer more dedicated space to the development of our journalists’ skills,” explains Dr Gulam.
In addition to operating its Tripoli-based training facility, the Lab has facilitated internships in Tunisia in cooperation with IWPR, BBC Media Action and various Tunisian media outlets. According to IWPR’s Libya Country Director, Seth Meixner, this cross-border cooperation could lead to further professional exchanges whereby Tunisia-based media refer to trusted Libyan journalists in order to gain objective insight into what is taking place on the ground.
Student outputs – which amount to 1,000 pieces of content to date – include news bulletins, films, radio programmes, newspapers, magazines and, more recently, TV debate programmes. They can be accessed online, on the Lab’s website and via Facebook.
The students learn new technical skills but they also get the opportunity to forge closer links with their peers across the country. They have created an informal community of media professionals which is, in itself, an important achievement in Libya today.