Trump’s attacks on CNN are being used to question the network’s reporting on Libya’s slave markets

Libyans have noticed that the president does not consider most American media to be credible -- this could subvert an investigation into human rights violations.

Libya's TV218 uses President Trump's image in an attempt to debunk CNN's reporting on human rights violations there. CREDIT: Screenshot

A Libyan TV channel has taken a hold of President Donald Trump’s claims that CNN reports “fake news” to push back against the network’s powerful reporting on the slave markets in the country, thriving on the presence of African migrants and refugees stuck there.

As a reporter for Al Aan TV noted on Twitter, one story on Libya’s 218TV cites Trump’s tweets accusing CNN of false reporting and asks that if CNN is lying, according to Trump, “what about the ‘slavery’ report in Libya?” The story continues, “the possibility arises that the channel has published the report of slavery in Libya to raise a political objective that is still hidden.”


Several news outlets in the highly unstable country (with a fledgling media) have reported on CNN’s rather horrific findings on the treatment of vulnerable African migrants and refugees trapped in Libya — especially after a reported Italian-led scheme to pay human traffickers to prevent them from crossing the Mediterranean into Europe. But there has also been some push back. Some news sites published selfies of Libyans with African migrants to show the “true face of treatment for Africans by Libyans in the country,” but others are using Trump’s own attacks on the media to cast doubt on the veracity of CNN’s report.

218TV also ran another piece on CNN’s lack of credibility, with Trump’s photo on the front page. This one claimed, “Libyans were shocked by the report of the American channel on allegations of slave markets in the country. The international reaction to the story didn’t take into consideration that this was likely wrong.” The story then goes on to detail what the channel considers a list of CNN’s blooper reels, including a false story that the network aired a pornographic clip instead of an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” food/travel show.


Some of the reports on the slave market take the tone of the 218TV report, while others seem to caution against giving the story much weight given the damage it could do to development in Libya, such as this item in the Libya Observer news roundup (where another items referred to the migrants as “illegal”):

The Libyan-American Friendship Association (LAFA) deplored on Saturday claims of slave markets in Libya after a report broadcasted by the CNN. In a statement, the association warned of the serious consequences that would result from accusing Libya of this phenomenon, bearing in mind that this could lead to a harmful foreign interference in Libya’s affairs, according to the Libyan News Agency. The association pointed out that broadcasting such reports may cause strong reactions and fuel public opinion on local and global scales, renewing its commitment to work on developing the friendship and cooperation between Libya and the United States, according to the Agency.

The CNN report includes footage, photos, and eyewitness testimony, showing that people were being sold for $400 in Libya, a popular port of departure for African migrants hoping to cross the sea to southern Italy and travel to northern Europe from there.

The narrative countering CNN’s report is troubling for a number of reasons, the primary one being that the Libyan government has said that it would investigate CNN’s claims, but the extent to which the government can effectively investigate its own alleged human rights violations is in doubt. There are calls for the U.N. and the International Court of Justice to investigate, with fresh sanctions being considered against the country by the U.N. Security Council.