The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

08 May 2007

Talk Radio, al-Qaeda Destroys Radio Dijla


In Iraq, Terrorists Take Down Talk Radio. Can We Help?

Will we let al-Qaeda win?

Days after a targeted terrorist attack took out Baghdad's first independent, commercial and non- secular talk radio station, it is unclear whether the medium will soon reappear in Iraq.

Radio Dijla featured something unique and worth fighting for in Iraq: citizens of every faith and background speaking out, including male and female presenters as well as the establishment of commercial media enterprises not affiliated with the government.

Last Thursday, however, al-Qaeda attacked the station, killing and injuring staffers. Then, over the weekend, the facility was torched. Now, it is completely off the air and could be gone for good if nothing is done.

From the Los Angeles Times:

BAGHDAD — Kareem Yousif knew it would be a rough day when armed men tried to abduct four of his employees as they rode to work in a company van. The Radio Dijla staff members escaped unharmed, but the maverick news-and-talk station did not.

Hours after Thursday's foiled abduction, editors, security guards and other radio staffers battled with dozens of gunmen who stormed the building, killing one guard and wounding two others. They drove off the assailants, but the next night, arsonists returned to finish the job.

By Saturday, the station was a smoldering, looted ruin, one more casualty in a war in which independent voices face deadly repercussions.

Yousif, the station's acting director, and Ahmed Rikabi, its founder, blamed groups linked to Al Qaeda for Thursday's attack, which occurred on World Press Freedom Day.

"We're a symbol of unity. What we were doing is absolutely against their thinking," Rikabi said.

Rikabi launched Radio Dijla, Arabic for Tigris, in April 2004 in Jamiya, a residential neighborhood of Baghdad. The station opened in a split-level villa down a side street from the main road, and began broadcasting news and call-in shows. The area was Sunni-dominated, and plenty of admirers of Saddam Hussein, who'd been ousted a year earlier, lived there, Rikabi said.

But the employees were drawn from a variety of religious and ethnic groups, and Rikabi believed that the station's nonsectarian, apolitical approach would shield it from attack.

He got the idea for the station after a year as head of the U.S.-run Iraqi Media Network, which operated from a tent near the Baghdad airport and then from a building that has since become home to Iraq's parliament.

More from the story here, including how the station was initially received in Iraq:

At first, he said, callers who disagreed were often rude and even cursed one another.

"Slowly and gradually, we noticed the dialogue becoming more intellectual, more developed. After a while, people got used to listening to different opinions," he said.

It was an unprecedented format for Iraq, where open political debate had been quashed for decades. But as Iraq's sectarian war and Sunni Muslim-led insurgency spread, Radio Dijla found itself sucked into the fray.

A year ago, Yousif's driver and a guard were shot to death. In the last nine months, one editor has been killed, and three other employees, including the news editor, have been kidnapped. None has been found.

The latest attack began about 8:30 a.m. Thursday, when two sedans, each carrying armed men, attempted to cut off the company van bringing employees to work. The van driver evaded the trap, and the would-be abductors fled after a gun battle with station guards.

And in 2004, the station was widely praised for its constructive approach. From a column by Jeff Jacoby:

Freedom of speech is alive and well, especially at Baghdad's Radio Dijla, the first independent all-talk radio station in the Arab world. Launched just three months ago, Radio Dijla now gets 18,000 calls a day -- far more than its small staff can answer. Everybody from laborers to ministry officials tunes in, and callers are free to speak about anything at all (only incitement to violence is taboo).

Under Saddam, criticizing a government minister could get you beaten, jailed, or worse. Today government ministers go on Radio Dijla so ordinary Iraqis can give them a piece of their mind.

From a 2006 profile of Radio Dijla in the Washington Times:

BAGHDAD -- It is a recent afternoon in Baghdad, and a Sunni and a Shi'ite sheik are chatting in the modest Baghdad studio of Radio Dijla.

Moufaq Al-Alani, the program's 63-year-old host, waits patiently for a caller to express his views on terrorism before politely suggesting that parents and teachers teach young people to respect all Iraqis.

Qasem Al-Joubari, the Sunni sheik, says imams should emphasize that killing civilians is never acceptable for a Muslim. His Shi'ite counterpart, Mahdi El-Mohamedoui, says violence reflects poorly on both Islam and Iraq in the eyes of the world.

An engineer, turning and sliding dials on a bulky soundboard, furiously spins his right hand behind a glass partition to signal a commercial break, and a young staffer hurries into the studio with glasses of sweet black tea.

This is talk radio in Iraq.

"Our country has been usurped by a 'with us or against us' attitude," says Mr. Al-Alani, a reporter for 44 years. "This station is giving all Iraqis a chance to express their viewpoints in a nonconfrontational manner. Our audience prefers this; they want peace."

Radio Dijla is Iraq's first independent radio station with an all-talk format, and it is a huge hit with the public.

Transmitting up to 90 miles from a two-story villa on a residential side street in western Baghdad, the station receives up to 1,000 telephone calls per day and gets more than 1 million hits per month on its Web site,, said executive manager Kareem Al-Yousif.

While the American mainstream media is hesitant to blame the attacks on al-Qaeda, the station's owners have made it clear there's simply no doubt who's to blame. From their press release:

80 Al-Qaeda terrorists attack the independent Radio Dijla

On World Press Freedom Day, coinciding on Thursday 3rd of May 2007, about 80 terrorists of Al-Qaeda network launched an attack on the headquarters of Radio Dijla in Baghdad, killing the head of security Mr Adel Al-Badri and injuring two other guards.

This assault was preceded by a failed attempt to abduct four employees as they rode to the station in a company van at 08:30am.

Eyewitnesses noticed a group of gunmen closing all ways leading to the radio station before storming the building with RPG missiles, rocket-propelled grenades and 500mm calibre machineguns.

Assailants succeeded to make their way through the front entrance, but they could not carry on upstairs as they were confronted with a brave and fierce resistance that lasted about 45 minutes inside the stations corridors.

An hour later, National Guard forces showed up despite the fact that their control point falls in a close distance to Radio Dijla, which is about 500 metres.

The soldiers gave our employees 15 minutes to get in their military vehicles before withdrawing to a safer place within the capital.

After a short time, the terrorists returned to the radio headquarters and occupied the building for thirty hours before setting it ablaze.

In spite of being informed and during such a long period, no positive action by the Iraqi authorities was noted. The situation was treated with negligence, and as a consequence, Radio Dijla was left a smouldering.

The terrorists indeed succeeded in destroying our walls and equipment, but not our will to continue being a voice for all Iraqis. In their heroic resistance to the attack, our staff became a symbol for all journalists who defend the truth with their own lives. We intend to be back on air as soon as possible, but this time with more power, resilience and determination.

As talk radio industry insiders, bloggers and fans, shouldn't we do something to help Radio Dijla get back on the air?

Isn't it clear that al-Qaeda felt an urgent need to destroy free speech in Iraq?

Your Radio Equalizer would like to hear from you: what should we do to help? Send a note to radioequalizer (at)

An email to Radio Dijla's founder has not yet been returned, but when it is, this site will provide an update. In addition, this site has already begun to ask individual talk hosts to help with this effort.

In the meantime, your Radio Equalizer requests that hosts, bloggers and fans spread the word about what happened to Radio Dijla. And in the coming days, we will provide a more detailed idea about what can be done to speed up its return to the airwaves.

Thanks for any support you can provide. Talk radio clearly provides an effective tool against the enemies of freedom all over the world, doesn't it?

Otherwise, they wouldn't feel the need to torch it.

UPDATE: have heard back from Radio Dijla founder Ahmad al-Rikaby, he points to this CNN video clip as providing good background as to what has happened. Still trying to determine what he might need to get the station broadcasting once again.

UPDATE: this effort is off to a really slow start. Reaching al-Rikaby is proving difficult, he was on the road when the station was destroyed. In addition, raising awareness of the issue here has also been tricky, given other major news events. Your help is much appreciated for this worthy cause.

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  • the GOP let Bin Laden win a long time ago, the day the United States shit down the military base in Saudi Arabia, the same military base ,that Bin Laden attacked us for having. All you have to do is read Bin Laden's speech, 9-11 was done because of the military base and Bush shut it down, without the fucking media uttering one peep! shut down 4 months after 9-11 I believe!!
    Yet, some limp dicked moonbat con will still sit here and tell me "lib media"

    By Blogger Minister of Propaganda, at 08 May, 2007 13:14  

  • MOP, it's great to have your opinions here, but could you put a lid on the language? It doesn't help you make your case.

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 08 May, 2007 13:51  

  • I think that talk radio ought to band together and provide new equipment and some hosts go over there to inaugurate the rebuilt station.

    I'm sure the libs will hate anything that isn't hate Bush.

    By Blogger PCD, at 08 May, 2007 16:41  

  • PCD
    What is there to hate, its not like we speak arabic and could understand what is on this station , it is unfortunate this happened, but as Rumsfeld said "stuff happens, freedom is not free" right????

    Brian, I will tone it down , glad you enjoy my viewpoint, even though we are 100% on the opposite side of the spectrum , however we share one thing in common, we love the medium of radio!

    By Blogger Minister of Propaganda, at 08 May, 2007 19:15  

  • MOP,

    it is especially great having your opinions here since none of the theoretical targeted readership of this blog gives a damn enough to comment unless they are responding to something you said.

    By Blogger elmonica, at 08 May, 2007 20:49  

  • agreed

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 08 May, 2007 23:29  

  • Brian, how do you know Al-Qaeda took this station down?

    How do you know it wasn't Thrush, the arch enemy of the Man from U.N.C.L.E.?

    Or worse yet, KAOS, Maxwell Smart's nemesis?

    You have no more evidence that Al-Qaeda did this than that Al-Qaeda put the hot in the Hottentots.

    You know what's bringing you righties all down? You're so stupid that you believe your own disinformation!

    (By the way, this is not to discount the problems of terrorism. It's merely to point out that this whole Al-Qaeda scare is very complex, and probably more created by resume pushing terror-experts in Washington and on Fox News than by any reality in the field. Lots of people hate us--often for good reason--and they band together as they can and get back at us. Anyone can call himself Al-Qaeda who wants to, and the rubes of the right will take it at face value. What dopes!)

    By Blogger metrodorus, at 09 May, 2007 00:12  

  • Actually, I can't quite yet give this point up.

    Zarqawi is a perfect example. He was a nobody. But it was convenient for his own prestige after 9/11 to claim he was an Al-Qaeda leader. It was also convenient for the right in this country to have a face for evil. So the U.S. propaganda apparatus and he engaged in a mutually beneficial scam to portray him as Al-Qaeda. And it was all fiction that eventually became a reality because it benefited so many people whose careers benefit by terror--not only terrorists, but supposed anti-terrorists as well.

    Wake up. Smell the coffee.

    By Blogger metrodorus, at 09 May, 2007 00:26  

  • Metro,

    Do you think revising history makes you right?

    By Blogger PCD, at 09 May, 2007 09:22  

  • You know, PCD, since your comment was devoid of facts or claims to back it up, there's not much I can do to refute it.

    So, do you believe that Zarqawi was part of Al-Qaeda? For how long? Under what terms? What was the nature of his ties to a larger Al-Qaeda organiztion? What is the nature of that organization?

    I'm sure you have no idea of the answers to any of these questions.

    "When you believe in things that you dont understand,
    Then you suffer,
    Superstition aint the way."
    --Stevie Wonder

    Tap into google "Zarqawi Al-Qaeda" and learn a bit.

    By Blogger metrodorus, at 09 May, 2007 18:57  

  • It took me about 15 seconds to find this:

    WASHINGTON -- The United States created the myth around Iraq insurgency leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and reality followed, terrorism expert Loretta Napoleoni said.

    Al-Zarqawi was born Ahmad Fadil al-Khalayleh in October 1966 in the crime and poverty-ridden Jordanian city of Zarqa. But his myth was born Feb. 5, 2003, when then-Secretary of State Colin Powell presented to the United Nations the case for war with Iraq.

    Napoleoni, the author of "Insurgent Iraq," told reporters last week that Powell's argument falsely exploited Zarqawi to prove a link between then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida. She said that through fabrications of Zarqawi's status, influence and connections "the myth became the reality" -- a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    "He became what we wanted him to be. We put him there, not the jihadists," Napoleoni said.

    By Blogger metrodorus, at 09 May, 2007 18:59  

  • Oh, and I should apologize for intemperat language. Calling people stupid and dopes is not appropriate.
    Sorry to everyone whom I offended and inappropriately maligned.

    But I will say that the right has a serious problem now. Influential Repbulicans have been distorting facts for so long that I think many have permanently left the reality-based community. And that's a sure recipe for disaster.

    How could anyone believe Republican leadership about anything after all the lies of the last six years?

    By Blogger metrodorus, at 09 May, 2007 19:10  

  • Metro,

    Just because you Google up a lefty whom a reporter calls an expert, doesn't make them either an expert or respected. You can Google up a lot of left wing garbage that is written authoritatively, but isn't true. Just like when you lefties cite Michael Moore on anything. It is meaningless to the informed.

    By Blogger PCD, at 10 May, 2007 13:13  

  • Face it, PCD, you have no facts.
    I'm still waiting to hear details about how Zarqawi fit into the Al Qaeda organization from you and what your evidence is.

    By Blogger metrodorus, at 10 May, 2007 13:42  

  • Metro,

    You want to one more time just reject reports from our government and other sources. You are so blind that you refuse to see. You have drunk deeply the Jim Jones kool-aid.

    mayve I'll post a link or two like I did to MoPoop debunking him, and maybe I won't. Just depends on how stupid and irritating you get metro.

    By Blogger PCD, at 10 May, 2007 16:22  

  • PCD, why on earth would I believe anything put out by an administration that has lied repeatedly? that continues to lie?

    I'd rather get my news from reputable sources that back up their claims with facts that can be checked.

    If you want to plunge off the cliff with Bush like some benighted lemming, so be it. Requiescas in pace.

    Fortunately, however, the rest of the country seems to be coming to its senses.

    Oh, and I eagerly await your proof that that Zarqawi is anything other than an opportunist who seized on an identification with Al Qaeda when Colin Powell presented that opportunity to him.

    You really have to stop worrying about these Islamic terrorists and pay closer attention to what's happening at home. It would be far healthier.

    We'd all like to think the enemy is elsewhere, some evil conspiracy--commies, fascists, terrorists, drug-lords.

    But ultimately, as Pogo said, "I have met the enemy, and he is us!"

    By Blogger metrodorus, at 10 May, 2007 22:42  

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