WASHINGTON (March 22, 2014) — The senseless death today of the Baghdad bureau chief of RFE/RL’s Radio Free Iraq has shocked the members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, who called for the immediate arrest of the Iraqi presidential guard accused in his shooting.
“Dr. Mohammed Bdaiwi Owaid Al-Shammari was a committed journalist working to ensure that the people of Iraq received reliable, unbiased news,” said BBG Chairman Jeff Shell. “In so doing, he faced many risks, making this final and apparently random act of violence all the more difficult to bear. With a mixture of sorrow and outrage, we extend our condolences to this brave soul’s family, friends and colleagues, and we call on the government of Iraq to spare no effort to bring his killer to justice.”
Witnesses say an Iraqi presidential guard shot Al-Shammari at the gate of the compound housing his office after the two men exchanged words over whose vehicle should pass through the checkpoint first. After the shooting, the officer fled.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki met briefly with members of Al-Shammari’s family at the compound gate and promised them swift action.
Al-Shammari, 46, is survived by his wife and three children. He had been working for RFI since 2006 and became its Baghdad bureau chief in 2012. A journalist for two decades, he served on the editorial boards of several Iraqi media institutions and was an associate professor at Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad.
He was the third RFI journalist to be shot dead since the service began broadcasting in 1998.
In a statement issued today, Nenad Pejic, editor in chief of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, called the incident “inexplicable” and a “profound loss.” RFE/RL, headquartered in Prague, operates and is the home base of Radio Free Iraq.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors is the independent federal agency overseeing U.S. civilian international media, including Voice of America, RFE/RL, the Martis, Radio Free Asia, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks.