Radio station opens doors, gives chance for free speech
December 28, 2006
BALAD RUIZ, Iraq (Army News Service, Dec. 28, 2006) -In a city where there is no means for releasing information to its people, coalition forces have developed a project to give the people a chance at free speech.
The ribbon cutting ceremony for the Al Noor radio station, also known as the "The Light," located here, opened its doors to many with high hopes and happy faces from the Iraqi Army and police department as well as city officials of Balad Ruz and members of the 5-73 Cavalry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division.
"This is a great day for Balad Ruiz and its people," said Mayor Mohammed Maroof Al-Hussein, city mayor. "I think this is a new stage for our city and a new way to serve our people.
"This is a free station," he continued. "The people can say what they want, they can speak freely."
With the help of the 5-73, civilians will now be able to hear news and get more information in their homes other than what terrorists want to put out, said the mayor.
"I remember the first night we were here at Forward Operating Base Caldwell and hearing an Iranian broadcast in English to target American Soldiers," said Capt. John Pratt, Company B, 404th Civil Affairs. "These terrorists were getting their message out, but the people here didn't have a way to get their message out."
"This is a pro-government radio station that counters what terrorists are saying," said Pratt. "It also lets the people know what the coalition forces are doing in their area to help them."
Pfc. Timothy Bramhall, a member of 5-73, said this mission was one of the most important missions he had been on. Not just for the coalition forces, but for the Iraqi people as well.
"This is a chance for the city and its officials to reach out to their people," Bramhall said. "It's also a chance for us to let them know we're here to help them and to try and make Balad Ruz a better place."
Primarily farm land, Balad Ruz is currently behind in technological progress. Pratt feels this is a big chance for the government to prove to its people changes in the economy are just waiting to happen.
"Even though this is mostly an agricultural community, this is proof that Balad Ruz's new government is able to take the first technological step to bettering their economy," said Pratt. "This means more jobs and growth for the community."
Though hopes of progress are high, Balad Ruz government officials and the coalition forces primarily hope the radio station raises awareness and the morale of the Iraqi people.
"I hope this new service will encourage other cities to start stations to better serve their people," said Al-Hussein.
Bramhall echoed the Mayor's words: "I hope the Iraqi citizens feel good about this. I hope it gives them a chance to say what they want to say. I think it's better for them to hear information from their own people than from us.
"It's also gives the people a chance to reflect their points of view," he added. "It also lets listeners know they are not alone with their views."
Bramhall said he hoped the Iraqi people would understand this freedom to say what they feel.
"Something we, as Americans, forget about at times - our right to freedom of speech," he said. "They will now know what that's like."
"This radio station is for the people," Pratt added. "It's a way to put out information about what's happening in their community to better serve the people."
Employees of Al Noor are presently sending out flyers across the city to promote the station and begin its mission of informing the people.