The Case for Press Freedom: Washington Post Journalist Awaits Verdict in Iran 


The journalism community continues to wait on a verdict in the case of a Washington Post bureau chief being held in Iran.

Jason Rezaian, who was based in Tehran, was detained more than a year ago.

“We think we’re going to get a verdict any day,” says John Hughes, president of the National Press Club and editor with Bloomberg First Word. “Jason should be free. Every day he’s incarcerated is a day too long. It should never have happened.”

The press club has been on the forefront of Rezaian’s case, working with Ali Rezaian, Jason’s brother and the family spokesman. Ali was part of an NPC news conference on July 22 with Washington Post executive editor Martin Baron.

According to the press club, Iranian Security Forces swarmed Rezaian’s home and took him to prison on July 22, 2014. For months, he was interrogated and kept in solitary confinement with inadequate medical care and no access to a lawyer. Rezaian’s trial concluded in recent weeks.

There’s been no shortage of news coverage, including this story from FishbowlDC when the trial wrapped: Jason Rezaian Trial Nearing Its End. In recent days, the Washington Post published this opinion piece, Iran’s imprisonment of Jason Rezaian is an affront to justice. And there appears to be no chance for a prisoner swap.

Patrick Butler, vice president of programs with the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), says the cases that typically garner attention involve American journalists working overseas.

Freelancers also face danger when it comes to reporting stories in unsafe parts of the world.

But the vast majority of journalists targeted and harassed reside in the countries they’re in, Butler says.

“Journalists are jailed and sometimes killed for simply telling what the governments are doing in their countries,” he said, stressing the importance of the right to operate a free press. “It’s essential that people have access to quality information to make the best possible decisions.”

On July 29, the press club honored Rezaian and two other journalists – Austin Tice, a freelancer detained in Syria since 2012, and Azerbaijani reporter Khadija Ismayilova, who has been jailed in her home country since December – with the 2015 John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award.

Each year, the club offers the award to those whose work and lives advance the cause of press freedom and transparency.

“Press freedom is central to everything we do,” Hughes says. “Reports from Jason’s family is that he’s OK. This has been hard for him and hard on his family.”

ICFJ’s Butler says the group continues to keep tabs on Ismayilova in Azerbaijan. ICFJ previously worked with her on a variety of programs.

“We’ve been following her trial very closely,” Butler says. “She’s kept up her spirits and is playing the role of any good journalist. She’s defiant and standing up for herself and for the rights of journalists everywhere.”

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Christine Cube is an audience relations manager with PR Newswire and freelance writer. Follow @cpcube or check out her latest on Beyond Bylines on PR Newswire for Journalists.

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