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Viewing cable 09TRIPOLI359, STATE MEDIA PULLS THE PLUG ON SAIF AL-ISLAM'S SATELLITE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TRIPOLI359 2009-04-29 16:04 2011-01-31 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tripoli
VZCZCXRO2318
OO RUEHTRO
DE RUEHTRO #0359/01 1191629
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O R 291629Z APR 09
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4774
INFO RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 1459
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 1045
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS 0808
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS 0931
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT 0872
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 5304
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TRIPOLI 000359 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR NEA/MAG AND DRL/NESCA 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL:  4/29/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KMDR SOCI LY
SUBJECT: STATE MEDIA PULLS THE PLUG ON SAIF AL-ISLAM'S SATELLITE 
CHANNEL, ARRESTS MANAGER REF: A. 08 TRIPOLI 679 B. TRIPOLI 208 CLASSIFIED BY: Gene A. Cretz, Ambassador. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)

1.(C) Summary: State media took over the quasi-independent al-Libiyya satellite television channel on April 24 in the middle of an interview program featuring Revolutionary Committee (RevComm) member Mustafa Zaidi. The state-run al-Jamahiriya channel immediately began to simulcast its programming on al-Libiyya's signal. According to the opposition website Libya al-Youm, al-Libiyya station manager and deputy director of the al-Ghad Media Group Abdelsalam al-Mishri was arrested on the same day and the host of the program in progress was interrogated by security services before being allowed to leave the broadcast studio. Saif al-Islam al-Qadhafi, son of Muammar al-Qadhafi, chairs the al-Ghad Media Group which includes al-Libiyya TV as well as two daily newspapers and a second satellite TV channel aimed at a young adult demographic. Al-Ghad newspapers covered al-Mishri's arrest and announced that al-Libiyya would relocate overseas with the help of an unnamed investor. End summary.

AL-LIBIYYA BROADCAST CUT MID-PROGRAM

2.(C) Management of the quasi-independent al-Libiyya satellite television channel changed abruptly on the evening of April 24 when the live broadcast of Ain Qurb ("Up Close") interview show was interrupted mid-way through the show and the station's signal was replaced by content from the state-run al-Jamahiriya channel. The show's host, Hala al-Misrati, was interviewing Revolutionary Committee member Mustafa Zaidi in a "Hardball-type" format when the feed was cut and state security officers entered the studio and started questioning her and others who were present. Station manager and deputy director of the al-Ghad Media Group Abdelsalam Mishri was reportedly detained on April 26 in conjunction with an investigation into the channel's activities. Al-Mishri's job was rumored to be in jeopardy for several months under suspicion of financial impropriety. Local press and observers, noting the timing and method of the station's shutdown, speculate that matters of programming content are more likely to blame. According to media contacts, Muammar al-Qadhafi visited the station headquarters earlier on the day of the shutdown.

3.(C) Saif al-Islam al-Qadhafi, son of Muammar al-Qadhafi, launched al-Libiyya two years ago as part of his al-Ghad Media Group venture. While the group's assets feature more diverse programming and news coverage than the circumspect state-run outlets, they are rarely openly critical of the regime and adhere to the "red lines" delineated by Saif al-Islam. Al-Ghad retains one other satellite channel, al-Shabibiyya, and two daily newspapers, Oea (oealibya.com), and Quryna (quryna.com). Oea ran an interview with Ain Qurb host Hala al-Misrati on April 29 describing her interrupted interview with state officials. Al-Misrati downplayed the interruption of her program, saying the individuals who questioned her were not security officers and characterizing their questions as benign. She blamed differences of opinion between her guest, RevComm member Zaidi, and other RevComm members for the crisis and criticized the strictures placed on journalists in Libya by reactionary regime figures.

4.(C) The Saif-owned daily paper Quryna featured a front-page article on April 28 attributing al-Mishri's arrest and al-Libiyya's potential move to London to programming critical of Egypt's policies in Israel and Palestine. (Note: Al-Libiyya's closure came at the same time as Libya's Prime Minister-equivalent al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi and Foreign Minister-equivalent Musa Kusa were leading a cabinet delegation to Cairo to discuss bilateral trade and security issues. End note.) Quryna also ran a cartoon showing a character representing the satellite channel getting off an airplane in London though remained mute on a partnership with a foreign investor announced by al-Ghad in a press release on April 25.

NEW MANAGEMENT AT AL-LIBIYYA AND AL-GHAD

5.(C) State press announced that al-Atti al-Mizughi took over as station manager of al-Libiyya and Mohamed Kilani as CEO in the wake of al-Misrati's dismissal. Both officials are from state-owned al-Jamahiriya's staff. In related news, opposition website Libya al-Youm reported that Salah Abdelsalam Salah was appointed director of al-Ghad Media Group. Salah also heads Saif al-Islam's Human Rights Committee under the Qadhafi Development Foundation banner. He has facilitated visits to hospitalized regime critic Fathi al-Jahmi and personally escorted released critic Idriss Boufayed to his flight out of Libya. TRIPOLI 00000359 002 OF 002

6.(C) Comment: The reasons for the government's aggressive move against al-Libiyya are unclear. One theory is that program content provoked the ire of Leader Muammar al-Qadhafi (by being too critical of his regime, and/or by angering Egypt). Another theory is that the Leader wanted to further reduce the power-base of his popular son Saif al-Islam in the lead-up to the 40th anniversary of the coup that brought al-Qadhafi to power. After years as the heir apparent and champion of reform, Saif al-Islam has suffered a year of setbacks: government restructuring has been twice postponed; Libya's first constitution in 40 years remains in secret, draft form; his attempts to negotiate an end to the Swiss-Libyan contretemps failed; and a March 2 government reshuffle seems to have increased the influence of some who have complained about his calls for reform. His brother and chief rival for leadership, National Security Advisor Muatassim al-Qadhafi, on the other hand, recently completed a highly-publicized visit to Washington and appears to be taking on a larger role in Libya's security, intelligence, and foreign policy spheres. End comment. CRETZ