Libya Blocks Satellites
A man speaks on the phone as he looks on from a window at a burnt state security building in Benghazi. Muammar Gaddafi's government has lost control of the city, and is reportedly blocking satellite phone and television transmissions. REUTERS

Reports are emerging that the Libyan government may be jamming satellite signals, in an effort to block incoming news channels and communications from the outside world.

Thursday evening the chief executive officer of Thuraya Satellite Telecommunications, Samer Halawi, told Al-Arabiya television that the Libyan government was jamming his company's satellite transmissions. Thuraya provides satellite telephone service in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Thuraya is based in the United Arab Emirates.

Al-Jazeera issued a statement Monday saying it was being jammed in Libya, and Tuesday it posted frequencies at which the signal could still be picked up. The Lebanese Telecommunications Regulatory Authority told the local Daily Star that Libya was jamming news channels from that country as well.

In Egypt, as the demonstrations escalated, the government there blocked the Internet and cell phone signals for several days. In Libya, the Internet was cut off on Feb. 19 at 1:18 a.m. local time (Feb. 18 at 6:18 p.m. Eastern) and stayed that way for several hours. The country had periods during the rest of that weekend when it was unreachable, but since then connectivity has been normal, according to Internet consulting firm Renesys.

If the Libyan government is attempting to block signals, then it is far from clear it can continue to do so, as Muammar Gaddafi's government appears to be crumbling. In the last few days he has reportedly lost control of the eastern half of the country, and is losing the backing of many in the military and the tribal regions.

Calls to Thuraya and Al-Jazeera for comment were not returned, and attempts to reach satellite communicaitons company Arabsat were unsuccessful.

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