BAGHDAD – An Iraqi presidential guard has shot dead the Baghdad bureau chief of RFE/RL’s Radio Free Iraq (RFI), Mohammed Bdaiwi Obaid al-Shammari.
The shooting occurred on March 22 at the gate of the compound housing RFI’s offices in Jadriyah neighborhood.
Witnesses said Shammari was driving his car through the guarded gate, when he had a verbal argument over the right of passage with a member of the Kurdish peshmerga forces traveling in a vehicle.
The officer shot Shammari before fleeing inside the compound. He apparently took refuge in presidential-guard offices before eventually being handed over, but only after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki made a surprise appearance to demand he be taken into custody.
The peshmerga militia is responsible for guarding the compound controlled by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, an ethnic Kurd, which also houses the presidential residence as well as offices and private residences.
Maliki met briefly with members of Shammari’s family at the scene of the killing.
Media activists held a demonstration in the area of the shooting.
‘I Have Learned What Freedom Of The Press Means’
Shammari, 46, is survived by his wife and three children.
Known on the air as Hasan Rashid, he had been working for RFI since 2006 and held the position of RFI’s Baghdad bureau chief for two years.
In October 2013, on the 15th anniversary of RFI’s creation, Shammari said on the air: “I might say with confidence that after seven years of work at Radio Free Iraq I have learned what freedom of the press means from this very station. I have some 20 years of experience in journalism, during which I have been in charge of many publications. But I never knew freedom of the press as I have known and continue to know it in accordance with Radio Free Iraq’s professional standards.”
He was also an associate professor of journalism at Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad.
He earned a Ph.D. in philosophy of media and a master’s degree in public relations.
He also authored several books published in Arabic, including “Metamorphoses of Political Islam in Iraq” (2011) and “Iraqi Media: Reality and Challenges” (2012).
Radio Free Iraq is a branch of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.