Reporters Without Borders voiced deep concern today about the disappearance of Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi of satellite TV station Al-Baghdadiyah, who was kidnapped in central Baghdad on 16 November. The news agency reports of his abduction offer little reason for optimism.
“The kidnapping of a journalist in Iraq is often a prelude to his murder, and we have every reason to fear for Zaidi’s life,” the press freedom organisation said. “This war has resulted in massive bloodshed for both the Iraqi and foreign media. Never before in history have journalists suffered so much in a war. We urge all the security forces present in Baghdad to work together to find Zaidi. And we extend our support to his family and colleagues.”
The Associated Press quoted an Al-Baghdadiyah editor as saying Zaidi went missing in central Baghdad while on his way to work. The editor said that, when Zaidi failed to turn up, a colleague called his mobile. A strange voice answered and said: “Forget Muntadhar.”
Broadcasting from the Egyptian capital of Cairo, Al-Baghdadiyah is regarded as pro-Sunni and critical of the current, US-backed Iraqi government. Zaidi’s abduction surprised his colleagues because the 28-year-old journalist’s reports were considered “moderate” and neither he nor his station had received any threats. Al-Baghdadiyah has nonetheless lost two of its employees to violence since the start of the war. The latest, Jawad al-Daami, was murdered on 23 September.
A total of 206 media workers – journalists, technicians and assistants – have been killed since the start of the US-led invasion in March 2003, 46 of them since the start of this year.
Al-Zaida was released after being held for three days. He was not harmed.
UPDATE: On Monday afternoon (Washington, DC time), CNN reported that Al-Zaida was still in custody and was possibly facing charges for throwing shoes in the vicinity of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, not for hurling footware at Bush.