New York, September 9, 2011–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns Thursday evening’s killing of Iraqi journalist, filmmaker, and playwright Hadi al-Mahdi in Baghdad and calls on Iraqi authorities to immediately take steps to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Al-Mahdi, radio show host and critic of the government, was shot dead in his home on Abu Nawas Street in the Baghdad neighborhood of al-Jidida on Thursday evening, Agence France-Presse reported. The Associated Press reported that a police officer said the journalist had been shot by gunmen using pistols outfitted with silencers. Witnesses at the crime scene told Human Rights Watch that they saw no evidence of a struggle or theft and that the journalist’s valuables were left untouched. CPJ is investigating to determine whether the death was work-related.
“Iraq remains one of the most dangerous places for journalists to work, and the Iraqi authorities’ record of impunity for journalist murders is dismal,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “With this murder, a strong independent voice in Iraq has been silenced. Those who carried out this killing cannot go unpunished.”
Al-Mahdi had a thrice-weekly radio show on the independent Radio Demozy called “To Whoever Listens,” which covered social and political issues in Iraq including government corruption, bribery, and sectarianism. In May 2010, the journalist told The New York Times, “They tell me not to talk about politics.” A close friend of his told CPJ that he had been calling on the government to provide better water, electricity, and public services for the Iraqi people. Al-Mahdi also had a Facebook page that organized pro-democracy demonstrations in Baghdad every Friday and had been planning one this Friday. He had written on his Facebook page that he had received several threats through social media and on his cell phone.
In February, al-Mahdi was arrested along with several other journalists at an anti-government protest in Baghdad and reportedly beaten, blindfolded, and threatened with torture, CPJ reported. Iraq continues to be one of the deadliest places for journalists to work in. Since 1992, 150 journalists have been killed in Iraq, including five journalists killed in 2011 alone, CPJ research shows.