Egypt Pulls Plug on Libyan TV after "Al-Qaeda" Jibes
In response to months of protests by Libyans living in Egypt, the authorities in Cairo on 11 July ordered Egypt's state-owned operator Nilesat to pull the plug on Libyan state TV satellite broadcasts to the Middle East and North Africa.
An Egyptian court ruled that Nilesat should take 16 Libyan satellite channels off the air, the official MENA news agency reported. The barred channels carry sports and variety programming as well as news, current affairs and talk shows.
The ruling by the Cairo Administrative Court followed lawsuits filed by Libyan citizens and Egyptian lawyers who complained that Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi was using Libya's state TV channels to incite violence against rebels fighting to overthrow him. The complainants also accused the channels of false reporting.
Since anti-Gaddafi protests began on 17 February, Libyan state TV has alleged on occasions that the uprising was being fomented by Al-Qaeda and "foreign elements".
One of the channels affected by today's ruling, Al-Libiyah TV, affiliated with Gaddafi's son Sayf-al-Islam, last month accused the opposition of broadcasting "Christian missionary messages" from the rebel-controlled city of Benghazi in eastern Libya.
"The rebel leadership based in the eastern city of Benghazi has repeatedly accused Gaddafi of using state media as a weapon in the war that has left thousands dead," the French news agency AFP reported.
AFP recalled that in June 2011, NATO had denied Libyan accusations that it had targeted the country's state broadcaster's facilities in Tripoli.
In May the Arab League ordered the intergovernmental organization Arabsat to stop carrying Libyan state TV broadcasts.
The Libyan rebels themselves have two main TV channels: Libya al-Hurra ("Free Libya"), which started as a web-based streaming operation at the beginning of the uprising, and now transmits via satellite from Benghazi; and Libya TV, a pro-opposition TV station based in Qatar, which has been broadcasting since the end of March.
State-run media in Libya today initially ignored the Egyptian decision, filling their bulletins instead with the usual denunciations of the rebels and NATO strikes.
But before long Gaddafi, not known for championing media pluralism in Libya during his 41-year rule, will very likely claim that his country's state-run TV channels are now the victims of media censorship imposed by his Arab brothers in neighbouring Egypt.