The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) has banned television and demolished satellite dishes to prevent residents of its self-declared “caliphate” from accessing foreign channels deemed “dangerous” due to their anti-ISIS programming, Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) has learned.
ISIS’s crackdown on TV watching is reportedly a component of its broader effort to cement its rule by isolating civilians from the outside world while confining them to a constant stream of pro-ISIS propaganda and prohibiting them from consuming TV entertainment inside their home.
The jihadist group “fears civilians will see foreign news programs denouncing it or showing it in a negative light,” reports RFE/RL.
“Daesh considers TV a threat to its own existence,” said Hamoud al-Mousa, the founder of the Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS) campaign, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS. Raqqa city is ISIS’s de-facto capital in Syria.
The terrorist group wants to be the sole provider of TV programming for civilians who reside in ISIS-controlled territory.
It “wants civilians to consume TV entertainment outside the home and only in its specially created ‘media points,’” explained Mousa, alluding to outdoor booths where the jihadist group shows propaganda videos to the public, including young people.
Via the so-called “media points,” civilians are able to watch videos showing how ISIS “kills men, women, and children. This is the only available ‘news,'” Mousa added.
Although it avidly uses social media, ISIS has cracked down on civilians who use it themselves. The jihadist group has also prohibited Raqqa residents from accessing the Internet in their homes, allowing WiFi connections only in ISIS-controlled public cafes.
ISIS’s media ban and restrictions have been described as an effort to cut off civilians from the outside world, notes RFE/RL.
On August 7, imams at ISIS-controlled mosques across Syria first announced a decree to censor TV.
Mohammed al-Ali, a resident of Raqqa, told RFE/RL that a pro-ISIS imam at Raqqa’s Al Fawwaz mosque made the announcement during Friday prayers.
Ali and other witnesses cited in the RFE/RL report are using a pseudonyms for security reasons.
The imam “told people gathered for the Friday Prayer that the news aired by Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya and other channels is incorrect, baseless, and false and that’s why there will be a decision to forbid people to watch TV,” said Ali.
Under the decree, civilians are only allowed to watch TV on Friday, and their options have been restricted to only watching programs that show the Koran being recited, explained the witness.
Local activists told RFE/RL that ISIS has “begun to enforce the decree in the town of Al Shaddadi in Hasaka Province’s southern countryside, entering civilian homes and smashing equipment.”
“They are entering houses by force to destroy dishes and satellite receivers,” explained a witness from Al Shaddadi, whose account was corroborated by others.
ISIS reportedly airs propaganda videos on huge TV screens it has installed in Raqqa’s main squares. It also uses two huge vehicles as screens, known as the “Dawa convoy,” to disseminate its propaganda, according to RFE/RL.
Most of the viewers are children, something that Abu Nasser described as extremely concerning.