The Western media community was rocked in recent days by the sudden arrests of Washington Post Tehran correspondent Jason Rezaian, his wife and other journalists for unknown reasons.
The story received wide coverage in the English-language media – most noticeably in The Washington Post itself, which issued fervent pleas to both Iran and the US State Department to secure Rezaian’s release.
What exactly was Rezaian writing about in Iran? If his Twitter feed is any indication, his latest scoop was about the Islamic republic’s growing interest in baseball and its people’s “warm welcome” for a British woman on a motorbike. His last report for the Post, dating July 18, was about the P5+1 agreeing to extend their talks with Iran. Real dangerous stuff?!
While the Iranian press has suggested that Rezaian is an “enemy” of Iran, his newspaper certainly doesn’t think so. In an appeal to Iran’s leaders, some of which have published op-eds in the very same paper, the editorial board noted that the arrest of a reporter “who was dedicated to fairly explaining Iran” cast doubt on Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s commitment to “positive engagement” – as outlined in a September op-ed in The Washington Post, in which Rouhani vowed to pursue “constructive interaction with the world.”
For The Washington Post, at least, Rezaian’s arrest brought to the fore Iran’s imprisonment of journalists and its status as “one of the world’s worst enemies of the press.” On social media, it drew an outpouring of shock from Western journalists. And on every media outlet, from The New York Times to The Guardian to The Huffington Post to Reuters, the headline appeared, in many cases accompanied by a photo of the harmless-looking reporter who just days previously had half-jokingly called on the MLB to send Iran “some bats and balls” in light of its “cult following” for the old ball game.
Well, the game may be old, but Iran is a whole new ballpark.