Mosul residents snap up satellite dishes after ISIL's ouster
By Khalid al-Taie
Satellite receivers, long-banned by "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL), are flying off the shelves in east Mosul.
ISIL banned satellite dishes from all homes during its occupation of Mosul, threatening violators with a six-month prison term and a fine, with repeat offenders receiving harsher punishment.
Until the eastern part of the city was liberated in January, the group routinely confiscated these devices and destroyed them in public.
Al-Mithaq neighbourhood resident Naji Abdul Salam, 56, told Diyaruna he would hide his receiver in a hole during the day and turn it on secretly at night.
“It was risky, but we had no other option," he said. "They were banned under the pretext of being sinful, but the truth of the matter is that they wanted to isolate us from the rest of the world."
“Nothing is more precious than freedom," he said, adding that he recently purchased two additional receivers. "Today, we can turn on our satellite receivers without being afraid."
What ISIL feared most was residents having access to outside sources of information and news, he said, which adversely affected its propaganda efforts.
ISIL's media blackout
The group imposed "a harsh media blackout on people", Ninawa provincial council security committee member Binyan al-Jarba told Diyaruna.
They did not want locals to know what was happening around them, he said.
"They tried to completely cut them off from the rest of the world so that their only source of information would come from the group itself”, al-Jarba said.
ISIL's Al-Bayan Radio, taken offline on February 25th by an Iraqi airstrike , became the principal source of news and information.
Other "media outlets" -- centres dispersed across most residential areas --released ISIL's guidance documents and updates on the group's activities.
"Through these sources, they wanted to distort facts and deceive people with non-existing victories and to pretend that their alleged state is expanding and that they will remain undefeated," he said. "All of this was nonsense."
But imposing a media blackout was a "huge challenge" for ISIL, al-Jarba said.
"In spite of the threats and the risk, people held on to their satellite receivers, and they would secretly follow the news of liberation efforts and speak about it among themselves," he said.
"The blackout days are over," he added.
"The people are now freely watching the news and are desperately trying to send information to their fellow residents in the western part of Mosul," he said, where Iraqi forces continue to battle the group.
Satellite business is booming
In eastern Mosul, there has been high demand for satellite receivers, said journalist and Ninawa Media Institute vice president Sufian al-Mashadani.
"It is a dream come true that demand is back for these devices," he told Diyaruna. "People have a need to access the news and [learn about] the latest military developments, as well as a desire to open up to the world after a long period of deprivation."
ISIL's media blackout turned people's lives into hell, al-Mashadani said.
"ISIL has strongly fought to prevent the flow of information coming in and out of the areas it controls," he said. "Any TV or radio broadcasting was banned, and journalists were thrown in prison, while dozens were eliminated in an attempt to prevent any news leaks or to uncover the group’s true nature and deception."
The reappearance of satellite receivers in Mosul homes signals "the end of a dark chapter of history", said Al-Farabi University College media department head Kadhim al-Muqdadi.
"People are sighing in relief as they are no longer subjected to the ISIL propaganda machine and their bloodthirsty ideology," he told Diyaruna.
Local media outlets have resumed regular programming from inside the city and are reporting the news once again, he said, adding that people's interest and openness to the outside world is another facet of the victory over ISIL.