Local people involved in creating programs

BAGHDAD — The name Fallujah was once synonymous with anti-American insurgency, but these days, locals are more concerned with making or enjoying hit TV and radio shows.

A television station set up by state-funded Iraqi Media Network — which has Al-Iraqiya as its national flagship — provides a steady flow of programs that staff say express “the thoughts of freedom” and are designed to counter Al-Qaeda ideology.

Large parts of Fallujah remain in ruins after being pounded during brutal fighting in 2004, when U.S. forces took on hardcore Sunni insurgents and Al-Qaeda fighters holed up in the city.

But like other parts of Al-Anbar province, Fallujah has seen its Sunni population turn against its former Al-Qaeda allies in the past year.

“Our programs are prepared by the local people of Fallujah. They are diversified and deal with issues of the locals,” said Abdul Majid Dahham, station manager of Fallujah FM, which broadcasts 16 hours a day.

Another station, Fallujah Sawt Al-Hur, or Free Voice of Fallujah, broadcasts six hours a day, while the television channel has a slot of two hours every evening before 8 p.m., when it links up with the state-run Al-Iraqiya channel.

An estimated 400,000 people live within the 20-kilometer radius covered by Fallujah TV, but no viewing figures for the station are available. Dahham admits that the quality of the programming is often poor.

“The educational programs for children and cultural events for adults need to be improved,” he said.

To survive and develop, employees say, Fallujah’s fledgling TV and radio stations must receive more funds from the government.

“Despite the current modest output, the stations cover the whole of Fallujah and its suburbs,” said Mohammed Sami, 26, a Fallujah TV correspondent.

“We used to work in total secrecy in the first few weeks, avoiding risks and threats,” he added. “The locals had no idea what we were doing, but now the situation is better than it was.”

Free Voice of Fallujah radio has a team of 12 staff, including four women, who put together programs for the city’s residents.

“We are working to provide information to locals that is especially aimed at discouraging violence,” said station director Ali Hadi.

“Our station is a local one because we understand Fallujah’s problems and how they can be tackled.”

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