Libya Reacts to Gaddafi’s Death on Social Media

Muammar Gaddafi died and Libyan social media users expressed their feelings on Twitter and Facebook.

Muammar Gaddafi died and Libyan social media users expressed their feelings on Twitter and Facebook.

Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi was the ruler of Libya from 1969 until a military coup in early 2011. On the 20th of October 2011, he was captured by Libyan forces near Sirte and shot dead.  In response to the death, Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril declared “It’s time to start a new Libya, a united Libya. One people, one future.”

Arguably, Gaddafi’s death has been discovered mainly through social media channels. The first report of his death was via an email from the information centre of the Misrate military council around noon on Thursday October 20th, 2011. An hour and a half later, an image taken from a mobile phone showing Gaddafi’s bloody corpse was circulated on social media. Hours later, further footage , apparently captured on an iPhone, showed  Gaddafi’s seconds after he was dragged from his hiding place. The footage has since widely circulated on the Internet and social media.

As an article in the UK’s Guardian by Esther Addley notes, “If television has made it difficult for governments and armies to control the news of political deaths, mobile phone cameras and social media have made it almost impossible. The US government may have refused to release images of the body of Osama bin Laden, citing national security, but al-Jazeera, Twitter and a cheap mobile phone handset made that decision irrelevant in Libya. As with Benito Mussolini, Pol Pot, Nicolae Ceaucescu and Saddam Hussein before him, Muammar Gaddafi is dead and the whole world knows it.”

However, Libya’s reaction on social media to Gaddafi’s death was somewhat mute at first. It was as though people were holding their breath to make sure the images and rumours were true. Once it was confirmed that Gaddafi was dead, users quickly flocked to social media. On Twitter, many users expressed joy at Gadaffi’s death, including tweets in Arabic saying things like “God is great” and “Lybia is now 100% DEGAFFINATED”.

However, not all responses were pure joy. @Gheblawi  wrote (in English) “As we celebrate the dawn of a new #Libya we should remember our martyrs and wounded heroes, never forget their sacrifices and memory.”

On Facebook, hundreds of posters were left on pro –NTC pages. Al-Manarah Press, a Facebook page for news inside Lybia, posted an image of Gaddafi’s corpse. Within hours, it had 384 comments. Many of these comments echoed sentiments expressed on Twitter: “God is Great”; “Thank God.”

Gaddafi supporters were less vocal on social media. The page for Allibiya TV, which used to be a pro-Gaddafi television channel, wrote about their leader being “alive and well” and claiming that the photos were fabricated. However, by October 21st even supporters had to admit he was killed. The Arabic Facebook page announced the death and named his son Saif al Islam Gadaffi as his successor.

Social media has played a large role in several uprisings this year, and this time social media was a key witiness to the death, aftermath, and reactions in and around Libya and the death of Muammar Gaddafi