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Cablegate: Iraqi Media Outlets Based in Jordan: Profiles

VZCZCXRO9857
OO RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHAM #3125/01 3221203
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 171203Z NOV 08 ZDK PER MULTIPLE REQUESTS
FM AMEMBASSY AMMAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3838
RUEIFBS/OSC RESTON VA
INFO RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD 6108
RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 AMMAN 003125

C O R R E C T E D C O P Y (CORRECTED TAGS)

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED
SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/PPD, NEA/I, NEA/ELA, IIP/GNEA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KPAO KMDR IZ JO
SUBJECT: IRAQI MEDIA OUTLETS BASED IN JORDAN: PROFILES

AMMAN 00003125 001.3 OF 003


1. (U) A number of Iraqi satellite television channels have
established operations in Amman since 2005. These channels offer
news and entertainment programming aimed at primarily Sunni
audiences in Iraq and in neighboring countries. Following is a
profile of the major channels, based on interviews conducted jointly
by Embassy's Open Source Center and Public Affairs Section.

2. (SBU) Aghanina Channel: Emboffs met recently with Sameer Rassam,
owner and chairman of the channel, and with Director Husayn
al-Asadi, head of the Public Relations Department. The channel has
been airing Iraqi and Arabic songs from Amman since November 2007
along with cultural programs which target Iraqi youth ages 15-25.
The mission of the channel is to instill hope in Iraqi youth through
songs promoting concepts of coexistence and peace and denouncing
bloodshed. The channel also seeks to promote Iraqi artists and
singers residing outside Iraq as a result of extremist threats and
violence targeting performers.

Aghanina's revenue derives mainly from SMS messages. According to
the director, the channel received 1,500 messages daily when it was
launched, and now it receives over 10,000 messages daily. Eighty
percent of the viewership is from Iraq while the rest reside in
Syria, Jordan, and Gulf countries. According to the channel, the
Government of Iraq (GOI) denies the channel the opportunity to air
advertisements against terrorism because of the channel's name, "Our
Songs," though at least one other satellite channel, Rotana, is
allowed to air such ads.

Emboffs were given a tour of the channel's modest studio facilities,
and watched the editing of a program titled Shako Mako "What's
Up"), which aired during Ramadan. The program aimed to reach out to
poor Iraqi families residing in Amman. The presenter, an Iraqi
Armenian teenager named Rafi, visits poor Iraqi families and
delivers Iftar meals consisting of Iraqi food platters. At the end
of the program he presents a gift to the family.

The channel has offices in Syria, Baghdad, and Al-Sulaymaniyah. The
Amman office has 23 employees (13 employees work at the 7th Circle
office, while the rest work at the channel's office in the Media
City in Jordan). In the near future, the channel has plans to
transmit its signal on the Hotbird satellite in order to reach
Iraqis residing in the U.S. and Canada.

3. (SBU) Baghdad Satellite Channel: Emboffs also visited the
headquarters of Baghdad Satellite Channel located in the Umm
al-Sumaq area in Amman. Emboffs met with Sa'd al-Tikriti, the
channel's director. Al-Tikriti said the channel started in 2005,
transmitting from Baghdad. At that time, the channel hired
employees of the former Information Ministry. In April 2007, the
channel's headquarters in Baghdad was targeted by a vehicle borne
IED, after which the channel relocated its headquarters to Amman.
It currently operates from a villa in a residential area in west
Amman under a license from the Jordanian Audiovisual Commission.
The channel is facing legal problems with the municipality for being
located in a residential area.

The channel employs 70 staff in Amman, twenty as news editors and
correspondents. Twelve of the 70 employees are Jordanian nationals,
while the rest are Iraqis. The channel has 50 employees working in
Baghdad, and has other correspondents in Mosul, Kurdistan,
Salah-al-Din, Al-Hillah, Al-Anbar, Al-Najaf, and Basra. The channel
is currently working on hiring a correspondent in Al-Nasiriyah.
Recently, the channel opened an office in Beirut and is preparing to
open one in Egypt. Syria recently refused to permit the channel to
open an office.

Baghdad Satellite Channel is currently conducting surveys in five
Iraqi governorates to determine viewership levels. Al-Tikriti stated
the channel aims to represent "the ambitions of the Sunnis in
Baghdad." He also stated the channel receives no support from the
GOI, though it is supported by the Sunni Al-Tawafuq Front.
Advertisements and sponsorships are the main tools for generating
revenue. The sponsors include unnamed non-government organizations
which provide media training to channel staff. In 2008, Baghdad
Satellite Channel signed four leases to use the nearby studios of
the Jordanian ATV channel.

4. (SBU) Al-Babiliyah Channel: Al-Babiliyah Channel is located in
the Jabal al-Weibdah area of Amman. Emboffs met with Sadiq
al-Mutlaq, chairman and owner of the channel, along with former
Iraqi Ambassador Sa'dun al-Zubaydi, and Haydar al-Mulla.

Al-Babiliyah Channel launched its Amman-based signal in early 2007.
Haydar al-Mulla initially identified the channel as a mouthpiece for
the National Dialogue Front of Salih al-Mutlaq, stating that the
channel's mission is to highlight current Iraqi domestic political
affairs. He added that the channel also airs news on regional
issues affecting the Iraqi political arena. Ambassador al-Zubaydi

AMMAN 00003125 002.4 OF 003


disputed al-Mulla's account, saying that the channel is an
independent media entity that is not affiliated with the National
Dialogue Front. He asserted that while Sadiq al-Mutlaq is the
brother of Salih al-Mutlaq, "this does not mean the channel
dedicates the bulk of its reports to cover Salih al-Mutlaq's
political activity or that the channel receives funding from the
National Dialogue Front." For his part, Al-Mutlaq said that the
channel is non-sectarian, and that its main mission is "to unify the
ranks of all Iraqis and to reject heinous sectarianism."

Al-Mutlaq said that the channel has offices in Syria, UAE, Canada,
and Baghdad. Twelve correspondents work in Iraq. Fifty employees
work at the Amman Office. The channel broadcasts from Jordan's Media
City and has another office in Amman located in the Al-Jubayhah area
where the channel's studios are located. According to Al-Zubaydi,
Al-Babiliyah receives between 10,000 and 15,000 SMS messages daily,
indicative of its viewership.

Al-Mutlaq stated that he is the owner of two companies based in
Dubai which provide enough revenues for operating Al-Babiliyah.
Revenues derive from SMS messages and commercial advertisements.
Al-Mutlaq stated that Al-Babiliyah was the first channel to air
anti-terrorism and anti-Al-Qa'ida advertisements. He also denied
receiving any funding from the Iraqi National Dialogue Front.

5. (SBU) Emboffs met as well with Faysal al-Yasiri, owner of the
Al-Diyar Satellite Channel, at his home in Amman.

Al-Yasiri said that Al-Diyar started in March 2007 as the first
independent satellite channel aimed at a general audience and which
was not supported or funded by any party. The channel's
headquarters in Baghdad is located in the same building as that of
Al-Jazeera, 200 meters away from the Green Zone. Al-Yasiri said the
main broadcasting is done from Baghdad. The channel also broadcasts
from Jordan's Media City in Amman as a back-up, especially between
1400-1700 hours in the summertime, allowing the Baghdad equipment
and circuits "to cool off."

Al-Yasiri said that the channel airs news summaries every two hours
and a program called Minkum wa Ilaykum ("From You and To You") in
which "news reports are gathered from the people and address their
problems." Al-Diyar also broadcasts a program in which the host
"criticizes official acts of corruption in a very cynical manner."
According to Al-Yasiri, the program is popular among Iraqi
officials. Yet another live program is titled "Baghdad Now and
Baghdad Today," and features on-the-spot broadcasts from areas in
Baghdad "that suffer from the effects of the war," drawing on
on-camera statements by local residents.

Al-Diyar currently employs 132 employees, and has branches in
Al-Najaf, Al-Amarah, and Babil. Because the channel is perceived to
be independent and anti-corruption, other party-supported channels
have requested that Al-Diyar carry their news reports on its
scrolling news bar. Al-Yasiri provided Emboffs with copies of
Al-Diyar's corporate objectives.

6. (SBU) Emboffs also recently visited the Iraqi Economic Channel
located in west Amman and met with Alhan al-Shammari, director and
wife of the owner, Abbas Kamel. The channel identifies itself as an
independent Iraqi economic and trade satellite broadcaster that
focuses on increasing development in Iraq. The channel airs the
announcements of bids and other economic initiatives by GOI
agencies. It also profiles Iraqi companies in manufacturing, trade,
and construction sectors. It occasionally treats human development
issues related to refugees, unemployment, education, and
healthcare.

Operating since June 2008 in Amman, the channel is still going
through the procedures to obtain a broadcast license from the GOJ.
Approximately 60 percent of the channel's reporting will focus on
Iraqi economic affairs and 40 percent on international economic
issues. The channel employs 18 in its Amman office. Other offices
are located in Syria, Bahrain, Dubai, and Egypt. Inside Iraq, the
channel has offices in Baghdad, Basra, Najaf, Mosul, Karbala,
Sulaymaniyah, and Erbil.

7. (SBU) Finally, Emboffs visited the Al-Qitharah Channel located on
Third Circle in Amman. Emboffs met Deputy Chairman Shakir al-Falahi
who said he is a partner in the channel along with a Jordanian
citizen named Muhammad al-Ajluni. Ajluni serves as chairman of
Al-Qitharah. He also owns Arab Broadcast Services (ABS), a
broadcast feeder network based in Amman. Al-Falahi said that
Al-Qitharah operates under the auspices of the ABS. He identified
the channel as having a music video format restricted to Iraqi
ballads and other love songs.

Al-Qitharah is currently broadcasting from Cairo with offices in
Damascus, Amman, and Baghdad where it operates under the name

AMMAN 00003125 003.3 OF 003


Al-Misq. Al-Falahi said that the channel's Damascus office is the
most active office due to the large community of Iraqi singers and
performing artists currently residing there. Al-Falahi claimed the
channel had achieved a significant following among a youth audience
in northern Iraq and Baghdad.

Due to technical and financial problems, the channel has suspended
its broadcast signal twice. One suspension lasted four months. The
channel employs two persons in Amman, ten in Cairo, and four in
Damascus, most of who are of Iraqi origin. Its Damascus office is
headed by Sameer Fraq, an Iraqi.

According to Al-Falahi, the channel is independent, and relies on
SMS messages and commercials for revenue, along with financial
support, primarily in the form of employee salaries, from ABS. The
channel also receives income from the rent of its four Satellite
News Gathering (SNG) devices to other satellite channels. He added
that the Al-Qitharah has been denied the opportunity to air
anti-terrorism commercials by the GOI.

When asked about Raghad Saddam Hussein's involvement in the channel,
Al-Falahi denied that Raghad has links with the channel, saying this
a "mere rumor" based on the association of its former director Jawad
al-Ali, with Uday Saddam Hussein. Al-Falahi said if Raghad Saddam
Hussein were to launch a channel, it would be a news channel that
disseminates her father's ideology.

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