On April 16, 2020, a person who described themselves as the Sheikh of the Al-Mayah tribe texted Ali al-Haj, a reporter for the Iraqi broadcaster Al-Sharqiyya in the southern Iraqi city of Najaf, demanding he stop his reporting and threatened him, according to al-Haj, who spoke with CPJ via messaging app.
The message was prompted by al-Haj’s reporting on Malak Haider al-Zubaidi, a 20-year-old Iraqi woman who was allegedly prevented from seeing her family for eight months, mistreated, and set on fire by her husband and in-laws on April 12, according to a report by the Press Freedom Advocacy Association in Iraq, a local press freedom group.
Al-Haj said that the message told him he had no right to report on al-Zubaidi’s case, and the person said they would “deal with him personally” if he continued covering it.
The day he received the threat, Al-Sharqiyya broadcasted an interview with al-Zubaidi’s mother. According to news reports, al-Zubaidi’s husband, a police officer, said that his wife set herself on fire. Al-Zubaidi died on April 19, according to news reports.
Al-Haj filed a complaint with the Najaf police against Sheikh Ali Shakr al-Mayahli on April 16, according to al-Haj and a copy of the complaint, which CPJ reviewed. CPJ could not locate contact information for al-Mayahli.
Later that day, the Najaf police issued a statement on Facebook acknowledging that al-Haj had filed the suit, and stressed the police department’s commitment to protecting journalists and press freedom