Thursday, October 25, 2012

The murder of Zia Medhi

As noted yesterday morning and in yesterday's snapshot, Iraqi journalist Zia Medhi was murdred Monday in Baghdad.  She started the day researching a story on Iraq's LGBT community.  From yesterday's snapshot:

Iraq's Journalistic Freedoms Observatory notes the investigative journalist was in Baghdad's Tahrir Square at ten a.m. Monday morning conducting meetings and interviews and she was also working on a story about prostitution and brothels in Iraq.  She went to a police station to interview some of the 180 women arrested but a police officer prevented her from entering and he denied that there were any prostitutes among the arrested.  He left and then moments later re-appeared telling her she could enter but without her colleagues.  Zia Mehdi didn't feel comfortable with that offer and instead returned to Tahrir Square to continue her LGBT interviews.  Later she was discovered dead, stabbed to death, still in her jacket that noted she was a journalist.

All deaths are tragic.  Journalists killed while trying to do their jobs is tragic.  But in some of the instances that garner wide attention, the journalist may not be the target.  A bombing in Iraq may kill a journalist but be targeting an official, for example.  When someone is stabbed to death, it's a bit difficult to argue that they weren't the target.

Were I to make a list of suspects, I'd start with the police just because shootings are so common in Iraq that it's difficult to believe a killer wouldn't have access to a gun.  In other words, the stabbing was done for a reason, it was chosen.  And someone stabbing a woman transmits all sorts of connotations including that you will most likely bleed to death -- death will not be quick and easy from a gun shot.  And someone choosing to kill with a knife may have a gun handy but, if they are a member of the police, that gun might be state issued and they may not want the crime to be traceable to the police.

I'd start with the police because I would trust Zia Mehdi's instincts.  She goes to the police station to interview some of the women arrested for prostitution and she's refused entry but, if she'll ditch her colleagues and come with the police officer alone, he'll see that she gets to speak to some people.  She rejected that offer and she left the police station.  She didn't feel comfortable with that offer or that man.  I'd trust her instincts and I'd start with the police when making up a list of suspects.

But the reason that we're writing about Zia Mehdi this morning is because of a phone call.  I checked Reporters Without Borders and The Committee To Protect Journalists websites yesterday repeatedly.  This morning, I checked again.  They've got nothing about Zia Mehdi's murder.    And that makes no sense at all.

On the phone this morning with a CPJ friend, I asked about this.  I got, "I haven't heard about the death" followed by a long litany of all the things CPJ does leading me to ask, "Am I speaking with my friend or with a voice for CPJ?  My friend?  Sure it's completely understandable that you would not know about the death of every journalist in the world.  But if I'm speaking to CPJ, I would point out that it is CPJ's job to know who died and where."  And if Iraq's Journalistic Freedoms Observatory has issued a statement, than CPJ should especially be on the ball.

The following community sites updated -- plus Susan's On the Edge, Adam Kokesh, Pacifica Evening News, and The Diane Rehm Show --  last night and this morning:

The e-mail address for this site is

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