TRIPOLI (AFP) — A raft of foreign press titles are to return to Libyan news-stands this week after an absence of a quarter of century, the distributors said on Monday.
“The company is going to distribute 90 Arab and international newspapers and magazines, including the main British, French and US dailies,” said Abdessalem Meshri, director of Al-Ghad (Tomorrow), a private media business set up by Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi’s reformist son Seif al-Islam.
Meshri said the distribution of the foreign titles would not be controlled by the state.
“But that does not mean that we are not going to take account of our social, cultural and Islamic values,” he added.
He said the titles returning to Libyan news-stands ranged from heavyweight broadsheets like the International Herald Tribune to tabloids like Britain’s Daily Mirror. They also include the two main Saudi-owned pan-Arab dailies, Al-Hayat and Asharq al-Awsat.
The Libyan government has long maintained a tight grip on both print and broadcast media. The state-controlled media carries no opinions inconsistent with official policy.
Since the aftermath of Kadhafi’s 1969 coup, the country’s media landscape has been dominated by the General Libyan Press Office which oversees three daily newspapers.
For nine months between 2006 and 2007, Libyan authorities had allowed a small number of foreign titles to be sold.
In 2007, Al-Ghad launched two groundbreaking independent dailies and the country’s first private television channel. In their first few months the two newspapers broke a string of longstanding taboos, publishing criticism of senior officials and championing the cause of exiled opposition figures.
The authorities have since further loosened their control over the media, allowing AFP last November to open a bureau in the capital Tripoli and have a permanent foreign correspondent accredited, the first for a global news agency.