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Six Minutes to Freedom
Libya's Sowt Alamel Returns Despite Qaddafi's Attacks (updated)
By Nick Grace
January 25, 2006

Forced off satellite by a sophisticated and agressive jamming campaign orchestrated by the government of Libya, Sowt Alamel, Libya's Voice of Hope, returned to the airwaves today after weeks of silence.

Response from listeners inside Libya, who were alerted in advance to the station's return through articles in the online Arabic-language press, has been positive. According to station director Jalal El Giathi, one listener wrote to say that the programs "are like fresh air that clears the pollution of the regime's propaganda."

Independent media and the freedom of speech are not permitted in Libya. Journalists brave enough to counter the regime's lines are routinely imprisoned and, in many cases, murdered.

In order to remain on the air, Sowt Alamel had to turn to short wave. Originally broadcast on satellite, its feed was intentionally jammed by Tripoli, resulting in widespread disruptions that affected BBC, ESPN, CNN and U.S. and U.K. diplomatic and military communications traffic sharing the same satellite. Sowt Alamel was removed from the airwaves by the satellite provider and placed on a different satellite, which also suffered from the jamming attacks. The station was then ordered to "voluntarily" suspend its programs.

Intentional jamming of broadcast and communications traffic is a violation of the International Telecommunications Union regulations, which Libya is a signatory. Diplomatic efforts by Washington and London to bring Tripoli into compliance, however, resulted in no assurances that it would stop.

"We must keep fighting," El Giathi said. "We cannot stop what we are doing because the regime does not want us on the air. That is exactly why we are on the air in the first place."

The station's daily programs are broadcast from an undisclosed transmitter site between 1200 and 1400 GMT on 17660 kHz.

Updated January 26, 2006
Sowt Alamel (Voice of Hope)
Sowt Alamel (Voice of Hope) originally began as Sowt Libya (Voice of Libya). It was launched shortly after a June 2005 conference of seven Libyan opposition groups in London. Programming initially launched on satellite in September 2005 but was jammed off the air by the Libyan regime. Returned to the airwaves in January 2006 on short wave and also suffered from intense jamming.
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