A television grab shows presenter Hala Misrati during an undated broadcast. With her attack-dog demeanour, Hala stands out among state-run news channel presenters. Image Credit: AP

Cairo/Benghazi: She railed against a Libyan woman who claimed to western journalists she had been raped by Gaddafi militiamen, calling her a "liar" and suggesting she was a "whore".

On live television, Hala Misrati grilled an arrested journalist for an hour with all the doggedness of a secret police interrogator.

"Say the things that you said in your recordings!" she barked at the journalist, Rana Al Aqbani, apparently referring to taped recordings of Al Aqbani's phone calls, as she tried to make her acknowledge that she sought Gaddafi's ouster.

Al Aqbani, a Tripoli journalist, has since disappeared.

With her attack-dog demeanour, Hala stands out even in the field of presenters of state-run news channels throughout Arab countries, whose autopilot response has been to denounce protesters in the anti-government uprisings around the Middle East.

"She's clearly a very strong mouthpiece for the pro-Gaddafi forces," said Dina Eltahawy, a researcher for Amnesty International, which has issued an urgent alert to try find Al Aqbani.


Hala appears daily on her hour-long call-in show, Libya on This Day on the state-run satellite channel, Al Jamahiriya 2.

In her 30s, with long dark hair, heavy makeup and often decked out in gaudy outfits, she often gives long monologues crusading against Libya's rebels, the Nato-led alliance bombing Gaddafi troops from the air and anyone perceived to be sympathising with them or fuelling the campaign against Gaddafi.

That includes Western media and, particularly, the Arab news channel Al Jazeera, which she refers to as "the pig channel" in a rhyming play on words — the Arabic word for pig is "khanzeera." Libya's crisis has made her a star — beloved by Gaddafi supporters and viewed with a mix of loathing and bemused fascination by the opposition.

Miriam Al Amani, a 23-year-old student in Benghazi, the de facto rebel capital in eastern Libya, called Hala "a clown".

She said Hala was not well known before, but her new incarnation since the uprising made her famous.

"Now she's well known. Everyone in Libya knows who she is," Al Amani said with a laugh. "She lies so badly that nobody believes what she says," added Al Amani, who studies medicine at Benghazi's Garyounis University.


In contrast, an upper-class woman having tea with friends at a five-star hotel in the capital Tripoli was full of praise for Hala.

"Libya runs through her veins," said the woman, a Gaddafi supporter. "She is bold. She has been able to show the truth in Benghazi and tell us what it's really like over there, no one else was brave enough to tell it how it is." The woman spoke on condition of anonymity because her husband holds a job in the state.

Hala blasted Libya's UN ambassador, Mohammad Shalgham, who turned against Gaddafi, calling him "ignorant" and "an idiot" and saying "he is good for nothing but barking like a dog."

In another, she said the prominent Qatar Muslim cleric Yousuf Al Qaradawi was "the devil" after he criticised Hala.

Her fiercest diatribe came against Eman Al Obaidi, a Libyan woman who last month burst into a Tripoli hotel where Western journalists are staying and told them she had been gang-raped by troops before security officials dragged her out.