A kiss goodbye from an Iraqi journalist

Shuddering back to life.

An Iraqi journalist, Muntadar al-Zeidi [Muntazer Zaidi] , 28, was arrested after throwing his shoes at Mr Bush during a press conference with Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister. Mr Bush ducked twice as the shoes narrowly missed his head and hit the wall behind him. [Read story in The Telegraph]

I just saw the footage on the BBC news, it was a narrow miss, just over the top of Bush’s head. Now Muntadar is in jail and is to be prosecuted under Iraqi law. This is not good news I fear.

There are calls for Muntadar to be released, his individual protest – throwing shoes is an effective insult – was against the background of other protests against Bush’s visit to Baghdad.

The local network, Al-Baghdadia, where Muntadar worked,  issued a statement demanding Zaidi’s release “in line with the democracy and freedom of expression that the American authorities promised the Iraqi people.”

“Any measures against Muntazer will be considered the acts of a dictatorial regime,” it added.

According to AFP, Saddam Hussein’s former lawyer Khalil al-Dulaimi said he was forming a team to defend Zaidi and that around 200 lawyers, including Americans, had offered their services for free.

“It was the least thing for an Iraqi to do to Bush, the tyrant criminal who has killed two million people in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Dulaimi.

“Our defence of Zaidi will be based on the fact that the United States is occupying Iraq, and resistance is legitimate by all means, including shoes.”

Zaidi’s colleagues in Baghdad, where he had worked for three years, said he had long been planning to throw shoes at Bush if ever he got the chance.

The Iraqi authorities are not likely to see the funny side of this incident. Muntadar faces a charge of insulting a visiting head of state, which carries two-year jail term.

The whole idea of such an offence is ridiculous and shows clearly how bankrupt the claims of the US and UK and Iraqi regimes that there’s any semblence of democracy on the ground in Iraq.

Bush brushed off the insult, but it’s interesting that al-Zeidi got so close and was able to hurl both shoes with some accuracy and flair before being taken down.

I guess there’s a fairly standard argument that a journalist should not get so emotionally involved in a story that they let their anger get in the way. According to some news accounts, Muntadar had planned the “attack” for some time. He clearly bears a grudge and felt a need to express it.

It goes beyond the bounds of acceptable ethical behaviour that you’d expect from journalists, though there are memorable incidents, even if a little milder, of journalists getting too emotionally involved at news conferences and hurling abuse.

Press conferences are usually expected to be civilised affairs, Al-Zeidi reportedly works for a small independent TV station in Baghdad, I wonder if he’s done any units in ethics during whatever training he might have had.

It also points to the emotional tensions the can sometimes bubble to the surface when reporters are working under stressful conditions like Baghdad and Iraq today.

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6 Responses to A kiss goodbye from an Iraqi journalist

  1. NIK says:

    I’m absolutely no fan of Bush and wish I could’ve thrown the shoe myself. BUT… as a journalist, I think his actions were appalling and immediately disqualify him from work in the profession. You don’t cover the story and then become it. Too many folks I’ve read online seem to feel that because it was Bush and everyone hates Bush, this was acceptable behavior for a journalist. Incorrect.

  2. Medusa says:

    No Bush fan here either!

    I’ve often wondered how journalists deal with this issue. It must be one of the toughest things about being an effective journalist; having a definite opinion on an issue, person or event and trying to contain it to show a balanced view.

    As you say EM, in today’s world it must be increasingly difficult to sit “on the fence” when the instigator of such death and misery is sitting right there. Who knows, maybe some of Muntadar’s family have been directly effected or maybe he didn’t learn ethics in his course. He has my sympathy but unfortunately he should have stuck with more noise in his paper than in this arena.

  3. shannon merika says:

    The idea that journalists are, or should be, impartial reporters of facts is an idea. It is not reality. When America first attacked Iraq the (American controlled) Australian mass media went into an absolute frenzy of pure pro-attack propaganda. “Operation Iraqi freedom” the attack was called.
    Muntadar’s shoe throwing was one of the most honest acts I have ever seen in a journalist – and one of the most courageous.

  4. He should have asked tough questions and thrown metaphorical shoes instead of real ones.

    I don’t believe “balance” means being incapable of calling a spade a spade…..but be prepared to back it up with evidence.

    Any journalist could rightly call Bush an alleged war criminal and cite 2 or 3 examples of potential charges that remain unresolved and should be addressed. Lying to start a war would be one of them. Violating Article 51 of the UN Charter (a lawfully and fully ratified treaty in the US, so therefore US law) would be another.

    Eat those soles, George…..and pay for the souls – on all sides – you wasted.

  5. …and good to see you back! :-)

  6. Bill Oetjen says:

    January 19.
    I imagine thousands of people gathering at the White House fence and throwing their at the White House. Thousands. Some carrying placards proclaiming solidarity with Muntazer al-Zeidi, demanding his release, etc.
    I fear that al Zeidi will be whacked in the middle of the night regardless of his legal standing. I wish that I had the courage to do as he did.
    Peace,

    Bill

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