Internet and telecommunications are relatively new to Libya, and were widely introduced only in the past ten years. Traditional forms of communication are still widely used by people, as there is a tradition of having huge gatherings at funerals and solace, which take place over three days of mourning and are held in large tents. Relatives, friends and acquaintances offer condolences, and engage in general discussion while drinking tea and Turkish coffee; sometimes speeches and poetry are delivered. This also happens in weddings and other ceremonies, as relatives and acquaintances are invited for a ceremonial meal, with hundreds and sometimes thousands turning up at these events. Also there are poetry sessions which are popular but these are male-only like most social events in Libya.
Other common social events are gatherings of tribesmen to discuss tribes’ affairs and sometimes different tribal elders meet to solve their tribesmen issues as customary law acts in the place of the courts and judicial authorities. The mediation takes place over accidents, disputes and even homicide, including negotiating reparations and punishment.
Theatre is very popular but its limited to comedy and drama, it is mainly seasonal as the bulk of the theatres open in the holy month of Ramadan, during the rest of the year it’s mostly free admission for trainees and public groups to present their plays. There are hardly any musicals or other forms of art that are open to the public, except for the occasional events held by individuals or organisations for various celebrations when they hire traditional musicians and ensembles. But musicians are harassed by conservative groups since the Gaddafi days and many of the popular musicians had to retire after being threatened or sometimes even faced jail time for different accusations and charges such as indecency or corrupting the public taste and culture or going against religious teaching.
In a phone interview with the author Mohamed Bin Omran, the head of culture in Benghazi Municipality during the Gaddafi regime, confirmed that there were a number of theatre plays back in 2006 which indirectly addressed social and political issues. For example Al Mostashfa (The Hospital) was a play that criticised how a hospital is badly managed and how corruption is widely spread among all levels of government. Another play, Kawchi Ya Kosha (Bake, Oh Bakery), shed light on the everyday life of a poor neglected neighbourhood, with very bad public services, from bad electricity to sewer systems, where a visit from an official is expected. The play was very critical of how corrupt the government was, and how oppressive the regime was. Many of the play actors including Mohamed Bin Omran were interrogated numerous of times and have been imprisoned for extended period of times.
While religious figures enjoy a heightened social position as they deliver speeches at public events and recite verses of the Quran, especially on Friday, as people gather to listen to the weekly Islamic Khutbah. The two warring governments and their General Authority of Endowments and Islamic Affairs (Awqaf) actually dictate these sermons. The speeches vary from one mosque to another, or from one city to another depending on which political or ideological group has influence over the area. For example some of these sermons are used to deliver certain political views discrediting opposition and enemies. This led a large part of the population, especially youths, to distrust religious institutions, even viewing them as a part of the crisis, and the number of people attending these sermons has declined significantly.
Libya Post is the main postal service and it has only 214 offices across the country, but it is uncommon for the public to use it, as informal methods are preferred and the government, which is heavily dependent on paper-based communication, uses its own internal capacity, where a staff member is appointed to deliver all of the organisation’s posts, a task which at times requires travelling by plane or car.
Many reports indicate that media are affected by the overall security and social situation in Libya. Many of the challenges are inherited from the previous regime, but are also caused by the current turmoil. This makes it rather difficult to differentiate fake news from real news, increasing the distrust in media by the general public and the virality of rumours.