Iraqi journalist who threw shoes is detained

During a press conference in Baghdad on Sunday, Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi called President George Bush a dog as he hurled his shoes at him. Though he missed his target, al-Zaidi was immediately tackled to the ground and restrained by plainclothes security personnel.

I was to start my new job at the Committee to Protect Journalists the next day and anticipated that the incident would generate tremendous media and public interest. And so it was: Overnight, the video was viewed on the Internet well over 2 million times and was shown on thousands of news channels across the world.

Although the incident is not a press freedom case, it raises concerns regarding al-Zaidi’s treatment. Video footage from the press conference shows a number of men taking down the Al-Baghdadia journalist. As he was being restrained, one of the men ordered cameras to be turned off. And since al-Zaidi was taken into custody, there have been reports across the news media saying that he suffered a broken hand and other injuries, and that those injuries may or may not have been sustained in the scuffle.

However, this afternoon, The Associated Press quoted the journalist’s brother, Maitham al-Zaidi, as saying that he had spoken with the reporter, who declared himself to be in “good health.”

While al-Zaidi was not acting as a journalist when he threw his shoes at Bush, he is entitled due process and the full protection of the law. We are alarmed that the video feed was cut as al-Zaidi was being restrained. Al-Zaidi should be allowed access to a lawyer so all these allegations can be clarified.