Walid al-Lafi’s Plan to Politically Capitalise Over the Case of a Child in Need of Treatment Backfires – Al Marsad

Walid al-Lafi, the former director of the Islamist channel Al-Nabaa TV and currently the controversial Minister of State for Communication and Political Affairs in the interim Government of National Unity (GNU), announced a “breakthrough” in the case of the child Abd al-Rahman—a student with spinal cord atrophy—when the announcement should have formally been in the name of government by the spokesperson Mohamed Hamouda.

(LIBYA, 9 August 2021) – Walid al-Lafi took the initiative, however, through the media institution called Hakomitna (“Our Government”), which he established as a parallel government platform to inform the state, by announcing the news of the “breakthrough” that Qatar agreed to guarantee the child’s treatment in Doha as a result of a call between Dbaiba and Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.

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The government spokesperson, Mohamed Hamouda, was totally absent from this news announcement given that this is his job and not al-Lafi’s.

The child Abd al-Rahman suffers from dystrophy since his birth and has been in Turkey for some time to receive treatment. The cost of the injection treatment is estimated at $2 million. This injection is available in a number of countries around the world, but al-Lafi falsely claimed that Qatar is one of the few countries that can treat this disease.

The Zolgensma injection is the first genetic therapy for spinal muscle atrophy approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on 24 May 2019, and is designed for children under two years of age.

Th injection is produced by the Swiss pharmaceutical companies Novartis and Roche, which are at the forefront in advancements in gene therapy. Therefore, Abd al-Rahman’s treatment is available in Switzerland, as well as in Germany, Italy, France, Greece, Belgium, the United States, and even in Egypt and Turkey, through social security, which helps cover the price of this expensive treatment.

A few days ago, on 21 July, Ain Shams University Specialized Hospital in Cairo administered this same injection to a second Egyptian child suffering from spinal muscular atrophy, the one-year and ten-month-old Aser Karim el-Din, at a cost of 38 million Egyptian pounds, which is the equivalent to US$2.1 million.

Al-Lafi seems to have promoted this issue after a a wave of criticism against him over the crisis of the Libyan mini-football team members who were infected with malaria and were unable to travel in the air ambulance to receive treatment in Italy. The head of External Information of the GNU’s Foreign Ministry, Mohamed al-Taweel, accused al-Lafi’s office of threatening him over the air ambulance scandal.

This is in addition to other criticism from the media establishment against al-Lafi for deliberately destroying government media through negligence, and awarding contracts to his media company, as well as exclusive transmission through his two channels (Salam and February) and the Hakomitna platform.

Al-Marsad has learnt from sources familiar with the case, that Walid al-Lafi was the one who coordinated with the Qataris through the former Qatari ambassador, Mohammed bin Nasser Al-Thani, with whom he had an old relationship that extended from financing news to financing those he now describes in his channels as “criminals in the war” of 2017-2018 to its current position.

Based on al-Lafi’s communication with Bin Nasser, the latter ensured Qatar’s approval for the treatment. Al-Lafi asked Bin Nasser to coordinate a call with Tamim so as to bring the matter out through the media. Al-Lafi’s initiative to highlight this news himself, and not through Mohamed Hamouda, was an effort to take attention away from the criticism he received over  the air ambulance scandal.

However, the announcement seems to have backfired on Walid al-Lafi, after ordinary citizens expressed their anger at the manner the news was released and how al-Lafi used it for political purposes. Furthermore, the media office of the Ministry of Health issued a statement saying saying that the treatment in Doha would be carried out at the expense of the Libyan state.

What is worrisome is that Walid al-Lafi has taken control of most of the media offices and departments of the various ministries through partnership with his private company, including the Presidential Council’s media office through several personalities he has placed at the heart of the Council such as Rudayna al-Filali, Najwa Wheba and Jalal Othman.

© ALMARSAD ENGLI