On Shoes and Journalism

Ok, let’s get one thing straight before I get my head bitten off again..
The Shoe was a most fitting farewell to a person who brought so much grief and sadness to Iraq in the name of freedom. It was hilariously insulting and I am sure George W. Bush will remember this incident for the rest of his life.
But I say this as Salam, Iraqi citizen and blogger… Ask me again what I think of the incident while I have a press pass pinned to my shirt and I’ll probably cringe.

The journalist’s aunt, Nawal Lazim, who handed him the scarf as he entered the court, said Iraqis should be proud of al-Zeidi’s act. "What Muntadhar has done is revenge for Iraqi widows and for the bloodshed caused by the occupation and policy of Bush," Lazim said. AP

Well, maybe.. I don’t know. But Muntadhar is an Iraqi journalist too and I think what he’s done makes us a bit of a joke. We Iraqi journalists don’t have the best of reputations anyway.. remember this a couple of weeks ago?..

For Iraqi Journalists, Free Press vs. Free Land
[…] Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki made a pledged [that] the government would give plots of land to thousands of journalists, for a nominal price or possibly even free…

… “Support from the government is not a right, but it’s a necessity,” said Maher Faisal, the managing editor of the independent newspaper Addustour…. Mr. Faisal said he hoped that the deal was not politically motivated. “But,” he said, “journalists need to eat.” NYT

*sigh* Journalists need to eat… yes, but not from government handouts. We’ve been there before, not wise. But I see we haven’t learned our lessons.

Anyway…. The trial has been adjourned until the 12th of March while the judge is trying to find out whether president Bush was here on an official visit, invited by PM Maliki or not. Apparently being an official guest or not has a bearing on the sentence al-Zeidi might get.

Look, we are still a very tribal society. A lot of our traditions and laws stem from these tribal customs. And a guest is to be honoured no matter what.

The whole shoe-throwing thing doesn’t register much in Iraqi media these days, it’s been a while and we had elections in the meantime which buried all other stories. But while it was still being debated on television a tribal sheikh who was vehemently defending al-Zeidi during an on-air debate was asked by the presenter what he would do if a guest at the sheikh’s house had a shoe thrown at him.. in the sheikh’s house at the sheikh’s presence?
The sheikh didn’t answer, it is a huge insult. Not only to the person who had the shoe thrown at him but to the host as well.

But regardless of the insult to the Iraqi state what matters to me is that al-Zeidi has insulted us Iraqi journalists.

Too many of us have died in Iraq while working for local and international news organisations and many more still brave the dangers of being a reporter in Iraq…  sadly this shoe incident made journalism in Iraq the butt of jokes… Muntadhar al-Zeidi the Iraqi citizen expressed eloquently with that shoe what many Iraqis felt about Mr. Bush, but al-Zeidi the journalist did us all a disservice.