Iraqi authorities arrest Samir Obeid at Baghdad checkpoint

Iraqi authorities arrest Samir Obeid at Baghdad checkpoint
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Iraqi authorities arrest Samir Obeid at Baghdad checkpoint

Beirut, February 6, 2018–The Committee to Protect Journalists today condemned the arrest of Iraqi freelance journalist and political commentator Samir Obeid and called on Iraqi authorities to release him immediately.

Men who identified themselves as Iraqi security forces arrested Obeid at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Baghdad on February 2 while he was on his way to visit relatives in the south-central city of Najaf, according to news reports and the journalist’s brother-in-law, Hassan al-Rassam.

The agents took Obeid to intelligence headquarters in Baghdad, where he has been held since his arrest, al-Rassam said. During Obeid’s arrest, authorities also seized his car, luggage, and money without a warrant, according to al-Rassam.

Journalists at the UN School in Beit Lahi, Gaza Strip wait for the press briefing by António Guterres, the ninth Secretary-General of the United Nations. Guterres visited Palestine August 29 and 30, 2017. Photo courtesy of Mohammed Asad.

News media at work. Photo courtesy of Mohammed Asad.

In the weeks prior to his arrest, Obeid posted an article to his Facebook page, which has over 24,000 followers, that was critical of the Iraqi government, and an alleged government document that indicates corrupt practices.

“Iraqi authorities should stop harassing and arresting journalists like Samir Obeid for posting their reporting and opinions to social media,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour from Washington D.C. “We call on Iraqi authorities to immediately release Obeid and allow journalists to work freely and without fear of reprisal.”

The Iraqi prime minister’s office did not immediately reply to CPJ’s request for comment.

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According to the journalist’s brother-in-law, neither Obeid’s family nor lawyer has been able to contact the journalist since his arrest; they were unable to determine if charges had been filed against Obeid.

The journalist’s brother-in-law said he thinks that authorities arrested Obeid because they expect an Iraqi high court to overturn a Baghdad criminal court’s decision to release Obeid late last year due to insufficient evidence. The next high court hearing is scheduled for February 18, according to al-Rassam.

Iraqi armed forces previously arrested Obeid at his Baghdad home on October 22, 2017, a day after Obeid had published an article to his Facebook page criticizing Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, CPJ documented.

Since his release on December 11, 2017, Iraqi authorities have withheld Obeid’s passport and other documents, according to al-Rassam.

Following his December release, Obeid continued to be active on social media. On January 27, 2018, he wrote a post entitled “Why 85 percent of the Iraqi officials are corrupt and liars?” that criticized political and religious authorities, the lack of rule of law in Iraq, as well as the prevailing censorship and a subservient civil society. Earlier, on January 17, he posted what he said was an official document of the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers calling on public servants to vote in the upcoming Parliamentary Elections, which are due to be held on May 12, under threat of cutting off their salaries.

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RAY HANANIA — Columnist

Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.

"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."

Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).

Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, Middle East Monitor in London, the TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.

The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appeare in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.

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