April 28, 2009 / 5:07 PM / 11 years ago

Libya takes over TV channel linked to Gaddafi son

TRIPOLI, April 28 (Reuters) - Libya’s government has taken control of independent television channel Al Libia, officials and local journalists said on Tuesday.

One of the liveliest sources of news in a tightly controlled country where most stations are deferential, the channel is linked to one of the sons of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Saif al Islam.

He is widely credited with helping bring Libya back into the international mainstream after decades of isolation. Some observers said the takeover showed al Islam’s influence had waned since he announced a “time-out” from politics in August.

“Al Libia was brought under the control of Jamihiriya’s Radio’s General Authority last night,” a government official said, referring to the state broadcaster. Officials declined to give reasons for the move.

Quryna, a daily newspaper close to Saif al Islam, said on Tuesday that Al Libia’s managing director Abdessalam Mechri had been detained last week.

Local journalists and sources close to the government said the channel aired programmes which angered the authorities.

One of those programmes focused on the Revolutionary Committees, made up of staunch Gaddafi supporters accused by dissidents of torturing and killing opponents at home and abroad in the past three decades.

“The broadcast of Al Libia as an independent channel was stopped last night when it was about to start its programme named An Gourb (Close Up) to discuss the experience of the committees abroad,” said a source close to the government. Al Libia is owned by Al Gad Company for Media Services which also runs two radio stations and two newspapers. The outlets are part of an ambitious plan by al Islam to create democratic institutions such as a free media and an independent judiciary.

A continued commitment from Libya to normalising its relations with the West is important to Western governemnts who want Tripoli’s cooperation on illegal migrants and security, and to oil majors keen to develop the country’s energy reserves. (Reporting by Ali Shuaib; Editing by Robert Woodward)

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