Gaddafi's Propaganda Offensive

Player utilities

This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: Muammar Gaddafi hasn't been seen for months and certainly not since the Rebels stormed his compound in Tripoli. But he did issue an audio message last night vowing, "Martyrdom or victory,"and describing what he said was his, "Tour of Tripoli in the midst of the Rebel offensive."

Muammar Gaddafi: [Speaking Arabic]

Werman: Gaddafi said he walked around the city, in disguise so people wouldn't notice him. He claimed that he saw some young men shouting and walking normally. And saw, "No indication that Tripoli is in danger." Gaddafi has often communicated via such broadcasts since the rebellion against him began. Harry Bone has monitored most of them from his post at BBC Monitoring's Middle East desk in Britain. Harry, what do we know about where this rather scratchy broadcast came from last night?

Harry Bone: What's interesting is that it's very true to form that we know absolutely nothing about where it came from. But there was a difference in the quality, a marked difference in the quality from the ones in July. Now in July we saw 16 such broadcasts and they were directed to individual communities, different towns, Gaddafi strongholds and they were always synced to a live broadcast on state television showing roaring crowds.

Werman: Well let's give a comparison test. This is the Colonel Gaddafi we're more accustomed to hearing. Here he is in a broadcast before the Rebels arrived in Tripoli.

Gaddafi: [Speaking Arabic]

Werman: Compare what you hear there with how you heard his voice last night.

Bone: What we heard was very, very different. It was a completely rambling Gaddafi. It was some sparks of defiance but really nothing like what we've seen before. And when he signed off at the end saying, "Forward,"he sounded more like a man really that was going backwards in retreat.

Werman: The way apparently Gaddafi broadcast this message is through a TV station called al-Uruba which routes its signal through Damascus. But do we know where al-Uruba is actually based? I mean where is the microphone that Gaddafi spoke into?

Bone: Well one is we don't know if he's speaking into a microphone in al-Uruba. He may be speaking into a microphone absolutely anywhere which is then relayed to al-Uruba and then through Damascus through this sister station which has joined al-Uruba. So we have no idea where he's speaking from at all because he's speaking on a dodgy telephone line.

Werman: The fact that the signal for al-Uruba is routed through Damascus, what does that indicate to you? It would seem that Damascus, that Bashar al-Assad is simpatico to Gaddafi.

Bone: Well, absolutely. The point about routing it through Damascus is that it's fairly . . . at the moment it's untouchable because no one can do anything about Damascus at the moment. Bashar al-Assad, obviously, they are beleaguered dictators in league with each other. And the al-Uruba station you mentioned which is the sister station of the one which is actually routing the broadcast, we think it may be coming from Beirut and from people also who don't have a lot of time for the West, let's put it that way.

Werman: And technically, is it possible that Gaddafi can continue broadcasting his messages without revealing a single thing about his whereabouts?

Bone: That's extremely interesting. And I know that they've been trying very hard to expand their possibilities and their satellite resilience. And some of our people here at BBC Monitoring have been monitoring the sort of jiggery pokery that they've done shifting from satellite to satellite.

Werman: That's like a telephonic game of Whack-A-Mole.

Bone: [Laughs] Something like that, yes, yes.

Werman: Harry Bone with BBC Monitoring's Middle East desk. Thanks so much.

Bone: You're welcome.