Muntazer el Zaydi jailed – crime against journalism

March 13, 2009

The jailing of Iraqi journalist Muntazer al Zaidi for throwing his shoes at former US President George W Bush is a crime against journalism.

el-zaydi-main

A hero of Iraq

A poll released today, commissioned by ABC News and the BBC, suggests 62% of Iraqis regard the shoe-thrower as a hero. Twenty-four percent of respondents saw him as a criminal who had assaulted a visiting head of state.

Outside the court, Mohammed Ali, a childhood friend of Zaidi, said: “His act was not a crime but one of defiance. When he is eventually released I expect Muntazer could change his career and become a politician.” The Guardian’s story today.

There’s also a longer profile piece about the reporter, who has become a hero to many Iraqis.

There is an online petition at the Petition Site which is aiming for 1000 signatures. When I signed there were 57 so get on over there and do your bit.

The International Federation of Journalists has condemned the three year sentece as “disproportional”:

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has protested over the disproportionate decision of an Iraqi court which sentenced television journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi to three years in jail for throwing his shoes at former American president George W. Bush in December last year.

“This sentence is hugely out of proportion,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “The journalist made a serious mistake, but it was something that should have been properly dealt with internally and not brought before the courts at all. The Iraqi response is regrettable and we urge that there is clemency and his sentence is reduced on appeal.” [IFEX Update 12 March]

However, I disagree that Muntazer made a “serious mistake”. He was doing something that millions of us have fantasized about – expressing our hatred of the despotic Bush regime and its war criminal leadership.

Reporters Without Borders has also issued a statement condemning the sentence as harsh:

“We obviously regret that Zaidi chose this way to protest against the President Bush’s policies but there is no justification for this prison sentence,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The sentence is cynical in a country where so many of the people who kill journalists are never brought to justice. We call for his release.”  [Reporters Without Borders]

Sorry, but I don’t share this regret. My regret is that Muntazer is in jail.

There’s a nice post on this at Woolly Days.