|Ethnicity||mixed Greek, Irish and English heritage|
|Employer||RT's Ruptly (head of newsroom)|
|Organization||Russia Today & Press TV (formerly freelance)|
|Known for||Alternative reporting on the fall of the Gaddafi administration|
|Notable work(s)||Manufacturing Dissent (documentary)|
Lizzie Phelan, also known as Lizzie Cocker, (born Elizabeth Cocker, c. 1986) is a British journalist best known for her alternative journalism and her reporting as a war correspondent during the fall of the Gaddafi government and also the Syrian uprising against Assad's government. Phelan is currently head of newsroom for Russia Today's Berlin-based Ruptly news video agency.
Elizabeth Cocker took the name Phelan from her Irish grandmother and uses it for her professional work. Her great-grandfather was William Phelan, who was part of the Irish Citizen Army. She did a postgraduate study in journalism.
She first worked for the Daily Mail for experience before leaving after a few months for the Morning Star, under the byline Lizzie Cocker. Later she changed her byline to Lizzie Phelan. Lizzie Phelan is a freelance journalist, and her work has appeared in Russia Today and the Iranian Press TV. Phelan was a freelance journalist in Libya and used as an analyst for reaction by PressTV. In Damascus, Syria, she worked with Mostafa Afzalzadeh on a documentary called Manufacturing Dissent (2012). After completing her work in Syria, she reported from Managua, Nicaragua as a correspondent for Press TV and appeared on Russia Today, or RT, reporting from Venezuela. As of 2013 she is head of the newsroom at RT's Ruptly.tv.
Notable works of journalism
Reporting from Libya
Lizzie Phelan is known for her reporting during the 2011 military intervention in Libya and for her strong support for the Qaddafi regime. She referred to Libyan rebels as "counter revolutionaries" and stated that "90% of the tribes in Libya are supportive of the government". She celebrated the deportation of foreign journalists who reported news which portrayed the government in a negative light and denounced rebel advances on Tripoli as "misinformation" right up until the fall of the Capital. She also reported witnessing war crimes committed by the National Transitional Council with the complicity of NATO in September.
Although she was among the western journalists held captive by pro-Qaddafi forces during the siege of the Rixos hotel in the hours prior to the fall of Tripoli, she appeared on a Skype interview on Russia Today claiming she was being "protected" by the government and that gunfire were actually "fireworks and celebratory gunfire" because the rebels having been defeated.
Phelan also wrote about the "millions" of black Libyans who were under risk of violence by rebels. Phelan claimed that there were summary executions of members of the Qadhadhfa tribe by members of the National Transitional Council:
A female friend of mine and university lecturer who had gained her doctorate at the London School of Economics (see picture), Salma, committed the crime of coming from the same tribe as Gaddafi, the Qadhafadhfa. She was shot dead as she fled for the airport along with her mother and two nieces, Yam aged 20 months and Aden, who was just three-weeks old.
When Tripoli then fell to the NTC, she was evacuated by the Red Cross to the Corinthia Hotel. She was able to leave Tripoli on a fishing boat on 29 August to Malta along with former US congressman Walter E. Fauntroy who had also been reported missing during his negotiation mission in Libya.
British regulation of reporting
In September 2012, UK broadcast regulator Office of Communications, known as Ofcom, found that two Libyan dispatches broadcast by Phelan on the Russia Today channel in August 2011 were in breach of its code on accuracy and impartiality.
The channel responded to Ofcom's allegations insisting that "Subsequent developments of the situation in Libya did however confirm, in the opinion of Russia Today, that Lizzie Phelan was correct in her assertions", citing reports of civilian casualties by opposition and NATO forces by Amnesty International and the International Rescue Committee.
Ofcom had shut down Press TV in the United Kingdom in January 2012 because its license was being controlled from Iran instead of from the UK. Phelan has worked for Press TV as a correspondent in Libya and then in Nicaragua. Her reporting of Libya was called "controversial" by The Guardian.
Reporting from Syria
Phelan has followed a similar line during the conflict in Syria being a vocal supporter of the Assad regime, while strongly denying any documented instances of Human Rights abuses or consistently ascribing them to opposition groups. She appeared on the Syrian Arab News Agency in January 2012 to provide a foreign journalist's perspective about how Western media were portraying Syria. She told SANA about contradictions in the coverage of Bashar al-Assad in Western media that portray him as disconnected from his people, but she reported about her experience observing him at a rally with supporters. Her appearance on SANA was called "controversial" by Robert Mackey, who was interviewing her for the New York Times.
Criticism of reporting in Libya and Syria
Phelan is the only Western champion of Hafidh Al-Asad or Bashshar Al-Asad that I have read. The only one. She even cites approvingly from the speeches of Hafidh Al-Asad. She was a fan of Qadhdhafi and later became a fan of Al-Asad dictatorship. I mean, I can see or understand (yet disagree with) the position of support for, say, the Cuban regime for socialist experiment or for defiance against the US. The Syrian regime instead of championing the poor, it champion of the cronies and tycoons of crony capitalism, and instead of defiance it is willing to serve any outside sponsor.
Her reports from Syria in 2012 and Libya in 2011 have also been criticised by Robert Mackey of the New York Times, who was sceptical about her sources, the facts she reported, and her "activist" approach to journalism. Phelan said she believed that research had shown that the former Libyan government's information was closer to the truth than the claims being made by western-backed insurgents and the NATO and Gulf Cooperation Council media which she accused of encouraging wars of aggression against sovereign states.
- "U.S. spies on E.U." (video). Disclose.tv. 1 July 2013. Retrieved 1 August 2013.
- Mackey, Robert (1 February 2012). "An Interview with Lizzie Phelan" (video). 40.755978;-73.990396: The New York Times. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
- Fais, Andrea (7 March 2012). "Interview: Lizzie Phelan". Eurasia: Rivista di studi geopolitici. Retrieved 16 June 2013.
- "Lizzie Phelan – Germany". Ruptly.tv. Retrieved 13 June 2013.
- Phelan, Lizzie (22 October 2012). "The Majority of Libyans support Gaddafi". presstv.ir. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
- Phelan, Lizzie (22 October 2012). "Image of captive journalists at Rixos Hotel". guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
- Phelan, Lizzie (22 October 2012). "Lizzie Phelan on Russia Today from Rixos Hotel". Russia Todaz. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
- Phelan, Lizzie (22 October 2012). "Bani Walid under Siege". phelan.blogspot.org. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
- Phelan, Lizzie (8 September 2011). "Testimony: Witnessing the Transition to fear in Tripoli". Voltairenet.org. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
- Phelan, Lizzie (22 September 2011). "Witch hunts in "free" Libya". Voltairenet.org. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
- Voltaire Network (29 August 2011). "Voltaire Network journalists arrived safely in Malta | Voltaire Network Press Release". Voltairenet.org. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
- "Libya coverage 'broke broadcasting code'". The Guardian (UK). 19 September 2012. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
- "Ofcom Broadcast Bulletin 10 September 2012" (PDF). Retrieved 30 December 2012.
- Sweney, Mark (20 January 2012). "Iran's Press TV loses UK licence". The Guardian (UK). Retrieved 30 December 2012.
- "Lizzie Phelan Interview about Syria" (interview). Syrian Youths. 7 February 2012. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
- "British Journalist: Image of Events on the Ground in Syria Is Completely Contrary to Media Depictions". Syrian Arab News Agency. 14 January 2012.
- Abukhalil, Asad (1 February 2012). "The Angry Arab" (blog). angryarab.blogspot.com/. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
- Phelan, Lizzie (1 February 2012). "Lizzie Phelan: New York Times video interview with Lizzie Phelan" (blog). Lizzie-phelan.blogspot.com. Retrieved 30 December 2012.