The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs responded to questions posed by Andrew Mackinlay, Member of Parliament for Thurrock, regarding the Libyan government’s jamming of Hotbird and Telstar 12 communication satellites, disrupting the broadcasts of several stations including Sowt Alamel, a radio station that promotes democracy and human rights in Libya. The jamming has also disrupted military and security communications for the United States and Britain.
In its response dated 8 December, the Ministry wrote: “We have been informed that the Telstar 12 satellite has experienced some technical interference and note it has been alleged that the interference has originated from Libya. Our understanding is that, if true, the alleged action might be a breach of the International Telecommunications Regulations of the United Nations International Telecommunications Union.”
The response adds: “Government communications may have been disrupted and we are investigating the matter further. Following discussions with the United States authorities, the Office of Communications and Loral Skynet, the British Ambassador in Tripoli raised the issue with the Libyan authorities at senior level. The Government continues to work to eliminate barriers to freedom of _expression and information and to create an environment in which free speech and free media flourish.”
As we await answers on the MPs other, and more important, questions, our company states the following:
· The company will not concede its right to freely use open airwaves to empower Libyans to fully practice free speech via Sowt Alamel. It will accept nothing less than its full right to resume broadcasts immediately. It will utilize all legal methods to restore this right, including filing suit against the Libyan government and any other government that conspires with it in this issue.
· The company finds the evasive language used by the British government in its response to be unfortunate. Things should be told as they are, and in this case the Libyan government is intentionally practicing electronic piracy, in violation of recognized international regulations.
· The company finds the silence of the international stations affected by this piracy to be baffling. We appreciate that some Western and Arab media outlets have covered this brazen act of the Libyan government, but at the same time wonder about the suspicious silence of the Western governments that have been singing the praises of democracy and human rights. We also wonder why important Arab satellite channels such as Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya have neglected this shocking action, despite the fact that we have supplied all pertinent and documented information.
Advanced TV & Satellite Ltd
9 December 2005