At a press conference in Baghdad on Sunday, President Bush nearly got knocked upside the head by a pair of size 10 dress shoes.
Journalist Muntadar Al-Zaidi was no more than 20 feet from the president when he shouted “This is a gift from the Iraqis; this is the farewell kiss, you dog!” He then hurled his shoes towards the podium. President Bush narrowly avoided getting hit and al-Zaidi was detained and carried off by security personnel. But rather than discuss the moral implications of hurling footwear at a visiting head of state, I’d like to examine how Al-Zaidi has failed as a journalist.
Officials at the Cairo based Al-Baghdadiya are calling for the immediate release of their colleague, citing that any actions taken against him would be a throwback to the oppression of Saddam Hussein. Clearly, the higher-ups at Al-Baghdadiya missed the memo about their duties as members of the Fourth Estate. The job of a journalist is not to engage in combat, but in discourse. Democracy means that the press has the right to criticize the government, not to commit assault. Furthermore, I believe that al-Zaidi has damaged the reputation of his news organization. What government official will grant a press pass to a news agency that hires such volatile reporters? What if they’re never allowed to enter Iraq? Has anybody really thought about the implications of this action?
I don’t care if he’s being feted by a hero by the Arab street. Even if he’s released without being charged, I would argue for his immediate suspension or termination from Al-Baghdadiya.