IRAQ: TV commentator who criticized government is shot
Baghdad is buzzing about the shooting Monday night of a prominent TV commentator who regularly criticized the government on his show "Without Fences" on the privately owned Al-Diyar TV station.
Imad Abadi was shot in the head and neck by gunmen using a pistol equipped with a silencer at about 8 p.m. as he rode in his car in the Salhiya neighborhood not far from Baghdad's Green Zone. He managed to keep driving to an Iraqi checkpoint, and doctors today said his chances of recovery are good.
"For sure it is the politicians who are responsible," said Ziad Ajili, the head of the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, an independent press freedom group. "He was very brave in exposing corruption and he is one of the most prominent journalists who are criticizing the political parties."
Al Sharqiya TV repeatedly played throughout the day a recent clip of an interview with Abadi, speaking of receiving threats to his life, the dangers facing journalists in Iraq and the scale of corruption in Iraq.
"A journalist should be a free person who can write whatever he wants, but nowadays any scandal he writes about the whole world will collapse on his head," he said. "In any country in the world, a journalist will spend a year and thousands of dollars to expose a scandal, but in Iraq many scandals took place in one day.
"The intimidation of journalists is rejected, as is the allegations that they get money from abroad or are collaborators. The people know who is a traitor and who gets money from abroad – and it is not Iraqi journalists, 284 of whom have been sacrificed on the altar of freedom. Journalists walk around Baghdad day and night with no protection or cars, while each of those people has 50 cars to protect him, and bodyguards, and still they feel afraid and are hiding in the Green Zone."
The Journalistic Freedoms Observatory says 284 journalists and media workers have been killed since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, 175 of them while performing their jobs.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists says 139 journalists have been killed, 89 of whom were murdered. Not one murder case has been solved, CPJ says.
In the early days of the war, most of the deaths occurred in combat but as the violence has waned, journalists are more likely to be targeted because of what they write.
CPJ highlights the case of a journalist from Kirkuk, Soran Mama Hama, who exposed police complicity in a prostitution ring and was subsequently assassinated in July 2008.
--Raheem Salman and Usama Redha in Baghdad
Photo: Imad Abadi