A Lady's Ruminations

"Jane was firm where she felt herself to be right." -Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Sunday, August 21, 2005

"COPS": Iraq Style

This is an interesting story.

Iraq TV's 'Cops' Breaks New Ground---

KIRKUK, Iraq - Shattered glass, body parts, a blood-splattered blue sedan: the grainy video pans over the scene as Iraqi officers comb the site of a drive-by assassination.

It's "Cops" Iraqi-style, minus the "Bad Boys" soundtrack but otherwise roughly modeled after the American TV show.

Created to make government more transparent, "The Cops Show" featuring Kirkuk officers in action is the first of its kind in the country and is breaking new ground in Iraqi television. A live call-in portion gives the public the chance to praise the security forces or gripe about them.

Screened weekly on Kirkuk Television, which broadcasts in this northern city of nearly 1 million people, "The Cops Show" has opened the floodgates in a community long suppressed.

"During Saddam Hussein's time, it was very different," station manager Nasser Hassan Mohammed said. "You were unable to ask questions. You couldn't say anything bad about police.

"Now people can call in directly. Anyone has the right to do this. This is the difference now. This is freedom."

The call-in portion, initially a novelty, has become a staple of the show, and panelists field up to 30 calls per segment, Mohammed said. And because Kirkuk is ethnically mixed, the show switches among the languages spoken by Kurds, Arabs, Turkomen or Assyrians.

It took Iraqis a while to master the art of the phone-in.

"But after more than a year, they understand very well," Mohammed said.
This is a great way to get the citizens involved in policing their own communities.

Col. Gordon Petrie, the show's American military adviser, said it marks a new era for community service television.

"There has been a sea change in media," said Petrie, who heads public affairs for the 116th Brigade Combat Team. "Before 2003, it was all-Saddam, all-the-time.

"Kirkuk, which was one of the largest TV stations, basically was robotic. They'd get the Baghdad feed and send it out again. Now they are in charge here."

Until January's landmark elections, the Americans "ran the shows, booked the guests, and tried to show them what community service programming was about. But after Jan. 30, we became the monitors. They haven't disappointed us," Petrie said.