Two Iraqi journalists arrested for allegedly stealing a notepad belonging to the country’s defence minister were freed on Thursday in a case that sparked criticism from press freedom activists.
Mohammed Fuad and Afdhal Jumaa were arrested on June 4 and accused of having stolen Saadun al-Dulaimi’s notepad after a June 1 meeting of political leaders.
The meeting had been convened to ease tensions and break a long-standing deadlock that has paralysed lawmaking and contributed to a spike in violence in the country.
“Iraqi authorities have released the journalists who found the notebook of Saadun al-Dulaimi and were accused of stealing it,” said Muayad al-Lami, head of the Iraqi Journalists’ Syndicate.
Lami said Dulaimi had dropped the charges against the pair.
Defence ministry officials accused them of wilfully stealing the notepad, but activists and family members insisted the two found the book after the meeting and handed it to an official who failed to return it.
Their arrest had been condemned by media rights groups in Iraq, which regularly ranks towards the bottom of global press freedoms rankings.
It came in 150th out of 179 countries in media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders’ 2013 Press Freedom Index.