Thursday, August 25, 2011


Over the past week, the world has been gripped by events in Libya. Following months of battle and determination, on both the parts of the defiant
regime of Colonel Gadhafi and the rebels, the battle reached a dramatic climax: Tripoli began to fall to the rebels. The night's sky, previously lit for months by gunfire from armed and ambitious battle, turned to a showering of gunfire sparks in celebration of the rebel's breakthrough into Colonel Gadhafi's compound, itself a symbol of the leader's fortress of control over the people of Libya. While total take-over continues, the cracks are widening, weakening the foundations once embedded by Moammar Gadhafi.

During the moments of initial triumph, the images were remarkable, the soundbytes intense, and the coverage clear in the sense of euphoria easily digestible by the minds of the millions watching on-line and on-air all over the world. Though the former leader of this oil-rich, liberty-poor nation remains in hiding, the US$ 1.4million bounty put forward by a Libyan businessman is hoped to fuel the search and capture of Libya's falling leader. Time will tell.

As the story unfolded, it was impossible for global audiences not to feel a sense of 'deja vu'. Once again, audiences were given a front seat in the making of history. The Arab Spring, now stretching wider and deeper into the North Africa and Middle East region, brought the story of our changing world to us wherever in the world we were. The expectation is of similar stories and soundbytes occurring elsewhere in the region as the spirit and determination of revolution spreads. Our minds are ready - we see it, we understand it, we move onto the next story.

Sadly, as familiarity increases, feeling decreases.

And then something happens that reawakens our senses, squeezing our hearts and minds in with a clench of panic and concern. RIXOS Hotel.

While Tripoli was falling to the rebels, and the people of Libya were taking to the streets to celebrate the toppling of their heavy-handed, decades-long leader, 30 international news journalists were taking cover inside the Rixos Hotel. Being held against their will and under constant fear for their safety, news gatherers suddenly became the news story. For five horrific days, Gadhafi loyalist gunmen aggressively prevented news teams from leaving the hotel, leaving those being held in a constant state of fear.

Watching the story unfold, even for audiences, images turned into feelings of intense fear and concern - this was reality TV in a whole, new, frightening new light. The characters were not strangers. These captives were people who millions of people welcome into their homes, offices and social spaces every day, easily recognisable and immediately feared for. These people, these familiar news faces, were now
'insiders' in the line of fire. These moments of crisis were real.

Adding a remarkable realness to the unfolding situation, was social media. Twitter in particular - became a source of not only communication of events within the hotel, but also a monitor of the strained nerves and hearts of those being held captive. CNN's Matthew Chance @mchancecnn, a seasoned international journalist who has represented CNN across the globe, held onto a thread of connection with the outside world through his periodic tweets. Information updates rapidly turned to emotional expression of the nightmare unfolding. Reading his short messages, a rawness of danger seeped through his words, turning learning what was happening into feeling what was inescapable. And it felt horrific. Here is Matthew's BACKSTORY of those days of dread:

Thankfully, the journalists and their crews were released on August 24th. While they have been freed, the darkness of those days will always hold a part of their minds captive.

To the outside world, these brave individuals unlocked not just the inside story, but a part of all of our watching the world minds and hearts, ensuring that news is never simply watched. It must also be felt.

As our world changes, so too is how we watch the world. When making sense of it all, our eyes and ears serve us most when acting as a channel to not just our minds, but our hearts. Our ability to understand the world starts with seeing. It is exponentially magnified, and appreciated, with feeling.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2011