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IFJ calls for journalist's release, warns his safety may be threatened in prison

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an IFJ media release:

IFJ Backs Calls for Release of Journalist in Shoes Protest

The International Federation of Journalists says the reporter who threw shoes at United States President George Bush over America's role in Iraq should be set free. His protest, says the IFJ, reflected deep anger at the treatment of Iraqi civilians during the US occupation over the past four years of which journalists have been major victims.

Muntadar al-Zeidi, the correspondent for Iraqi-owned Al-Baghdadiya television, threw shoes at US president George Bush in Baghdad. The action was a symbolic gesture of distaste at US policy - showing the soles of your shoes is regarded as a form of disrespect in Iraq.

"This journalist was expressing his own deeply-felt views and we cannot condone his actions," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary, "but after years of intimidation, mistreatment and unsolved killings at the hands of US soldiers, it is no surprise that there is anger and resentment among journalists."

It is no coincidence, says the IFJ, that the protest comes only days after the United States refused to release a detained journalist, despite an Iraqi court order that he should be set free. "When the US appears to defy the rule of law in Iraq, it is no surprise that journalists will look to other ways to make their protest over injustice," said White.

The IFJ is warning that the journalist may be under threat while in detention given the record of mistreatment of journalists in custody by US forces. It is supporting its affiliate, the Iraqi Union of Journalists (IUJ), which has called for Muntadar al-Zeidi to be released and for his safety to be guaranteed. The IFJ is also calling on the government to make good on its commitment to conduct a full investigation into the deaths of Iraqi journalists since the start of the US occupation. The IUJ counts 284 journalists killed in Iraq since April 2003.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in more than 120 countries.

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