CAIRO (Reuters) - Muammar Gaddafi’s chosen way to communicate with the world since he went on the run is through a Syrian-based television station owned by a former Iraqi politician living in exile in Syria.
Gaddafi’s whereabouts are not known to his enemies but he has assailed them in several defiant and colourful speeches on Arrai TV since he was overthrown on August 23.
His latest message Thursday was a typical show of bravura. He described his enemies as stray dogs and rats and said he was staying on in Libya to battle them.
The private channel Arrai is owned by Mishan Jabouri, an Iraqi who was once close to Saddam Hussein’s son Uday but fled to Syria before the U.S.-led invasion toppled the Iraqi leader in 2003.
He returned later and was elected to the Iraqi parliament. But he left for Syria again over business problems and set up Arrai more than a year ago, shortly before the start of the uprisings in Libya and Syria in February and March respectively.
Jabouri could not be reached by Reuters to discuss his arrangement with Gaddafi.
Arrai says on its Facebook page www.facebook.com/arraichannel that it is a private Arabic channel with its headquarters in Damascus.
“Arrai seeks to offer a special and competing news service that would make it a leading Syrian and Arab news channel and aims to highlight the role of resistance and liberation in the region,” it says.
It’s main program is a news show presented by an anchor who sits all day receiving phone calls from people in different Arab states, who tend to criticise the uprisings in Syria and Libya and attack the United States, NATO and Israel.
“I tell Arabs as long as you have decent Mujahideen (fighters) like Muammar Gaddafi and brother Bashar al-Assad... I assure you that victory will come at the end,” one man who called himself Abou Seif from Iraq told the channel Friday.
During the program breaks, the channel broadcasts Arab poetry, some praising Gaddafi and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and old footage of bombings of U.S. troops, which the channel refers to as enemies, in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It also constantly runs its contacts on a news bar.
Paris-based satellite operator Eutelsat said on Friday it had no right to turn off its client.
Eutel, the world’s third-largest satellite operator, had said it was in contact with local distributor Noorsat to see whether Noorsat could stop transmitting Arrai and sister channel al-Oruba, which has also give Gaddafi a platform to speak.
Eutelsat spokeswoman Vanessa O‘Connor said Eutelsat did not judge or censor content and it was not up to it to make the decision to stop transmissions.
“It would require an instruction at the level above us... at the political and regulatory level,” she said.
The French government indirectly owns a 25 percent stake in Eutelsat.
(Reporting by Yasmine Saleh, Ahmed Tolba and Omar Fahmy in Cairo; additional reporting by Khaled Oweis in Amman, Lionel Laurent and John Irish in Paris, Writing by Diana Abdallah, Editing by Angus MacSwan)
Reporting by Yasmine Saleh, Ahmed Tolba and Omar Fahmy, Writing by Yasmine Saleh and Diana Abdallah: Editing by Angus MacSwan