ISIL media machine begins to stall: observers

By Alaa Hussain in Baghdad


Iraqi security forces are seen here in the village of al-Buseif, south of Mosul, during an offensive to retake the western side of the city from the 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant' on February 21, 2017. Iraqi forces have managed to take over several locations the group had used to broadcast its propaganda and publish its magazines and other material. [Ahamd al-Rubaye/AFP]

The media activity of the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) has declined significantly in recent months, security officials monitoring the group tell Diyaruna.

There has been a drop in the number of videos posted online that burnish the group's victories or attempt to strike fear into the hearts of the population by showing the group conducting amputations, beheadings and other crimes.

Crackdowns have silenced the social media accounts of many ISIL supporters, and Iraqi forces have targeted ISIL media outlets, operatives and recording equipment, they said.

ISIL's diminishing media presence and its reduced capacity to issue new material can be attributed in large part to the Iraqi intelligence services, security adviser Fadel Abu Ragheef told Diyaruna.

Intelligence services have taken over several ISIL media outlets, he said.

"The Iraqi intelligence unit al-Suqour managed to dismantle al-Furqan Media, the group’s media wing, while the National Security Agency managed to take hold of al-Bayan, a newspaper published by the group in Ninawa," he said.

Meanwhile, he said, coalition airstrikes targeted several key ISIL media centres in Iraq that the group relies on heavily to broadcast its activities.

Iraqi security forces have managed to kill and capture several prominent ISIL media figures, he added, including a Belgian photojournalist, who was killed in an August 24th air raid on the Anbar province city of al-Qaim.

On November 13th, the Iraqi judiciary revealed that a correspondent of ISIL’s Amaq News Agency known as Abu Salih had been captured.

He confessed that the group had been forced to cut the salaries of its media professionals, revealing that his own salary had dropped by more than half, from $400 per month to only $170.

ISIL media under fire

Based on detailed intelligence, Iraqi forces managed to take over several locations ISIL had used to broadcast its propaganda and publish its magazines and other material, said Maj. Hassan Faleh of the Iraqi intelligence services.

At one location near the University of Mosul, they found foreign passports, DVDs containing footage of the group’s operations and chants, as well as marketing material in several foreign languages and copies of ISIL's al-Naba newsletter.

In December, Iraq's federal police announced they had located ISIL’s main media centre in Dour al-Mishraq near Hammam al-Alil south of Mosul.

At the centre, police "found filming equipment, videos as well as important documents", said federal police chief Lt. Gen. Raed Shaker Jawdat, adding that recording devices, computers and several kinds of cameras were among the items seized.

The international consensus to eliminate ISIL has contributed to the group's media decline, said Saad Ibrahim, who heads Dhi Qar University's broadcasting and television department.

It "has contributed towards tightening the noose around the group’s media machine while giving momentum to a media trend that is providing a counter-narrative to that of the terrorist group", he told Diyaruna.

This in turn has led to significant decline in support the group had received in areas where it was operating and in the support it received from influential people, groups and other entities, he said.

"ISIL is now at its weakest after its military defeat on the ground and its loosening grip on its funding sources as well as the grinding halt of its mobile media machine," he said.

The group is facing a crisis, he added, amid a growing current of rejection of its ideology and increasing public rejection of its narrative as a result of its violent media content.

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