We're at an awkward stage in the Libyan conflict. Muammar Qaddafi's opponents control much of the country, including Tripoli, and are busy plotting a post-Qaddafi future for Libya with world leaders. But a defiant Qaddafi is still at large and and pockets of his supporters continue to fight. It's a precarious situation for Libyans, but it's also a perplexing moment for journalists as they pause before typing the muscle-memory terms they've used to define the Libyan conflict for the past six months. Should we still refer to the rebels as the "rebels" or the "opposition"? Is Qaddafi still the (embattled) Libyan leader"? What is the "regime"? Is there a regime? Back in July we noted that opposition fighters didn't even like the media calling them "rebels," but now the situation's much more complicated.
At least one news outlet appears to have arrived at an answer. This afternoon, CNN's Richard Allen Greene tweeted, "CNN style ruling: #Gadhafi is #Libya's former or ousted ruler. NTC are new or transitional leaders, not rebels" (NTC refers to the National Transitional Council). Indeed, a recent CNN article on the Libya conference in Paris today refers to "Libya's transitional leadership" and "forces opposed to Moammar Gadhafi continued to face forces loyal to the ousted leader." CNN, in other words, is calling this one for the anti-Qaddafi camp (to be fair, CNN is also running a piece today entitled, "Battle for Libya Not Quite Over."
How are other news outlets approaching the problem? Reuters was already reshuffling its terminology earlier this week, referring to Libya's "interim council" and a "deposed" and "fallen Qaddafi in an article on Tuesday. Today, it mentions Libya's "new interim rulers" and "NTC fighters." But other sources are more cautious. Al Jazeera cooks up an odd hybrid that seems fitting for the transition--"Libya's rebel interim government"--while The New York Times calls Qaddafi a "fugitive leader" and continues to employ the "rebel" adjective with frequency, though the paper also says the rebels are forming a "new government." Making matters only more complicated, news outlets still haven't resolved whether to call the opposition leadership body the National Transitional Council or the Transitional National Council (the council's website, unhelpfully, is ntclibya.org, and alternatively calls the organization the Libyan Interim National Council and the Transitional National Council). Well, at least we can all agree on one thing. Major change is afoot in Libya.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.