New York, July 13, 2021 — Iraqi authorities should thoroughly and transparently investigate the abduction of freelance journalist Ali al-Mikdam and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On the afternoon of July 9, unidentified people abducted al-Mikdam, a freelance reporter and activist, after he accepted an invitation to meet at a coffee shop in downtown Baghdad’s Karrada district, according to news reports, including an interview that the journalist gave to the Abu Dhabi-based broadcaster Sky News Arabia.
The journalist was found the following evening in southern Baghdad’s Dora district with bruises and on his face and body and a wound in his mouth, and police took him to the local Yarmouk Hospital for treatment, according to those sources.
Al-Mikdam said in that interview that he lost consciousness during his kidnapping and did not know who was behind the attack; he did not elaborate on the specific circumstances of his abduction. He told the broadcaster that state security forces are investigating the incident.
“The kidnapping and assault of Iraqi journalist Ali al-Mikdam shows the risks that reporters continue to face when they dare to report independently or comment critically on the news,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa representative, Ignacio Miguel Delgado. “Iraqi authorities must swiftly investigate this attack, bring the perpetrators to justice, and send a strong signal that crimes against journalists will not go unpunished.”
On July 10, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s office tweeted that Iraqi security forces had freed al-Mikdam from his kidnappers. However, news reports said that an anonymous source had alerted authorities that al-Mikdam had been left by the kidnappers in Dora district.
In his interview with Sky News Arabia, al-Mikdam said that he had received death threats for years, and he believed he was abducted in retaliation for his recent reporting on the assassinations of Iraqi activists.
In a June 26 article for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a U.S.-based think tank, al-Mikdam accused Iran-backed militias of targeted killings of protesters and activists. That article has since been taken down from the think tank’s website, and an archived version was reviewed by CPJ. CPJ emailed the institute asking why the article had been taken down, but did not receive any reply.
In the last video al-Mikdam shared on Facebook before his abduction, he blamed militias for killings and kidnappings of Iraqis.
Al-Mikdam took part in the October 2019 protests against corruption and lack of basic services in Iraq, and is an outspoken critic of criminal impunity in Iraq and the power of militias, news reports said.
Al-Mikdam also publishes commentary on social media; one of his Facebook pages has about 600 followers and posts about human rights and politics, another Facebook page has been taken down or switched to private, and his Twitter account has been suspended for an unspecified rules violation. He also gives interviews to local and international media outlets such as the BBC to discuss protests and militias in Iraq.
According to Al-Jazeera, al-Mikdam had fled Baghdad as a result of threats received over his activism and journalism, and moved to Istanbul and Erbil. He returned to Baghdad in early July, that report said.
CPJ emailed the Iraqi Interior Ministry for comment but did not receive any reply.