Sophia's Peace Work

Saturday, April 09, 2005

The New Reality TV of Iraq: Terrorist Confessions on the Tube

For the past month or so, Iraqi television has been broadcasting interviews and confessions of accussed "terrorists" captured by Iraqi police. I even saw some of these programs when I was in Jordan. A friend of mine who lives on the edge of town out near the airport told me that the police had done a sweep of his neighborhood and took into custody many people ... some of which, he said, later appeared on television making these contrite statements about their terrorist activities (these program usually feature an off-screen interviewer who shoots angry, interrogation-style questions at the "guest"). Some of the people taken from my friend's neighborhood return with stories of abuse, but others still remain in custody.

"And our area is good," my friend protested, "There is no problem there. It is quiet."

Last night I spoke to a reporter from the LA Times about this issue. He told me that the Western Press has already covered this story. One of the stations that seems to be notorious for these types of "news" programs is Iraqiya T.V., which, I believe, is one of the stations that was (and perhaps still is?) sponsored or given support by the U.S. He also told me that these programs have been a major PR success for the new Iraqi government. They show to the people that they are getting things done. And reports are that there is an increase in call-in tips from the public to the police about terrorist and criminal activities.

The shows are certainly popular in a "Reality TV/Road Kill" kind of way. You sort of have to slow down and watch them. The workers in my hotel lobby were watching one of these programs the other night. There is a belief that atleast some of these folks are really guilty. Why else would they look so sheepish, speaking slowly as if the words had been tortured out of them, hanging their heads in shame. They look guilty don't they? Don't they?

When I said to another Iraqi friend here, who is a intelligent, educated woman, "If this were happening anywhere else, the judge in their case would have released them."

She looked at me in surprise and said, "But why?"

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