TIME photo essay

Theater of War: Inside Gaddafi’s Libya

From February 26th to April 7th, 2011, Moises Saman was one of the few western photographers allowed to work in Tripoli—as a “guest” of the Gaddafi regime.

From February 26th to April 7th, 2011, Moises Saman, on assignment for The New York Times, was one of the few western photographers allowed to work in Tripoli—as a “guest” of the Gaddafi regime.

All foreign journalists invited to report from Tripoli were confined to the luxurious Rixos Hotel. They could only move outside under the strict supervision of government minders. During the six weeks that Moises spent inside the “bubble” of Gaddafi’s propaganda machine he tried to look past the staged events and pro-regime rallies organized by the government. His aim, to gain an insight into a bizarre regime built on four decades of repression and fear.

As the weeks passed and NATO started its bombing campaign within Tripoli the Gaddafi regime tightened its grip on the foreign journalists that remained in the capital, sometimes forbidding movement outside the hotel for days at a time. It was during those times that Moises turned to Libya’s state television—with its continuous barrage of bellicose propaganda— to understand the cult of personality built up around Colonel Gaddafi.

Saman sent weekly dispatches to Magnum via Skype from inside Qaddafi’s Libya. The piece presented here combines this audio with images he took during his time in there.

On June 10, Saman returned to Tripoli—once more to stay at the Rixos—to continue his assignment for The New York Times.

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