Police officers are seen in Baghdad, Iraq, on September 17, 2020. Authorities recently issued an arrest warrant for journalist Suadad al-Salhy. (Reuters/Teba Sadiq)

Iraqi judge issues arrest warrant for journalist Suadad al-Salhy

New York, October 23, 2020 – Iraqi authorities should drop the arrest warrant issued for journalist Suadad al-Salhy and allow the press to work freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Yesterday, a judge at the Al-Karrada Investigative Court in Baghdad issued an arrest warrant for al-Salhy, a reporter for the Middle East Eye news website, on charges of defamation under Article 433 of the Iraqi Penal Code, according to the warrant, which CPJ reviewed, and a report by her employer. As of this afternoon, she was not in custody, according to a source who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal.

“The warrant for Suadad Al-Salhy’s arrest is a sad reminder that Iraqi journalists are facing constant threats of government harassment and obstruction,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa representative Ignacio Miguel Delgado. “Press freedom entails allowing coverage of events of public interest and a wide range of viewpoints. Iraqi authorities should immediately drop the arrest warrant for al-Salhy and allow her to do her job freely and without fear of reprisal.”

The arrest warrant demands al-Salhy be taken to the Al-Alawiya police station, but does not say what actions prompted the order. If convicted of criminal defamation, al-Salhy could face up to one year in jail and a fine of 100 Iraqi dinars (US$0.08), according to the Iraqi penal code.

Al-Salhy has covered many sensitive issues in Iraq, including the role of militias, the country’s relations with Iran, and anti-government protests. She has contributed to international media outlets including Reuters, Al-Jazeera, and The New York Times.