Rewrite rules are making me mad

I basically want to disable hotlink protection on my site. (which are apparently enabled by default)

Tried the following:
RewriteEngine off <= not working

Activate hotlink protection in the panel and change the rewrite rule to the following to check my client sees the change:
RewriteRule .*$ http://hl.TOTOTOTOTO.org/split.php?http://%{HTTP_HOST}%{REQUEST_URI} [R,L]

Not working, my client is still redirected to :
effective URL: <http://hl.altervista.org/split.php?http://mysite/../../..

So the htaccess file seem to not be processed at all.
I might be doing something wrong here but can't figure out what???

Any idea please?