Iraqi reporter threatened with arrest over story about Iran’s supreme leader

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Iraqi authorities not to execute a warrant for the arrest of Suadad Al-Salhy, a Baghdad-based reporter for the Middle East Eye news website, and urges the judicial system to drop the charge brought against her.

Al-Salhy has learned that she could be arrested at any time as a result of a yesterday’s decision by the Supreme Judicial Council to arrest her under article 433-1 of the Penal Code for defamation, which is punishable by a fine and a year in prison.

The decision was taken just hours after Middle East Eye published a story by Al-Salhy in which she revealed that Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei ordered Iraq’s pro-Iranian militias to stop attacking US interests last week. The article is sourced and well documented.

“We ask the Iraqi authorities to ensure that Suadad Al-Salhy is not detained and that the judicial proceedings against her are dropped,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “This journalist, who is known for her professionalism, just did her job. Revealing information, even sensitive information that annoys some people, is fundamental principle of the freedom to inform.”

This is not the first time Al-Salhy has had exclusives on very risky subjects in Iraq. In August, for example, she revealed that a former adviser to Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis – the co-founder of Iraq’s Hezbollah Brigades who was killed in a targeted US drone strike in January 2020 that also killed Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Qassem Soleimani – accused the current prime minister, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, of plotting to killed Muhandis several times in the past.

Al-Salhy has herself received threats in the past. She escaped a murder attempt by unidentified gunmen in 2007 and explosive devices were found outside her parent’s home in 2014.

Iraq is ranked 162nd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.