Iran’s judiciary announced that Washington Post reporter, Jason Rezaian, a dual Iranian-American citizen held on trumped-up espionage charges, would be sentenced to prison for an undisclosed amount of time.
Now, Rezaian is already marking over 500 days (!) in Iranian captivity, prompting his brother Ali to approach the UN mission in New York with a Change.org petition, signed by over half a million people in 150 countries, calling for his release – a demand also echoed by Washington. Ali Rezaian told NPR recently that his brother is being held with just one other person, and is “very depressed” and “angry” over his difficult situation.
Rezaian’s 500 days of captivity prompted fresh media criticism of the Iranian regime. In The Wall Street Journal, Haleh Esfandiari earlier this week called on Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – on whose shoulders she said “ultimate responsibility” for the imprisonment of Rezaian and others rests – to recognize “the harm his judiciary and security agencies are doing to countless innocent individuals,” as well as Iran’s international reputation.”
The 500-day milestone prompted criticism of the media as well. For example, in a recently published article, Foreign Policy took on The New York Times for publishing “more than half-a-dozen” articles and editorials “pleading” for Rezaian’s release, while at the same time “eliding” the paper’s own “relationship to the subject matter.” According to Foreign Policy, this “dismaying” relationship consists of commercial collaboration with Iran in an enterprise that “benefits” Rezaian’s “captors” – namely, the exotically-named “Tales from Persia” getaway package to Iran, a 13-day tour operated by The New York Times and led by its reporters (all, incidentally, supporters of both sanctions relief and the nuclear deal).
Foreign Policy noted that the tour, priced at $7195, promises “beautiful landscapes, arid mountains and rural villages,” but that Evin Prison – where political prisoners and journalists such as Rezaian languish – is “not among the stops.” Furthermore, the luxury voyages depend on high-level approval from the Iranian regime, which benefits from them financially and politically – receiving not only much-needed revenue, but also a “stamp of legitimacy” from “America’s newspaper of record,” which likely has to ensure that its business partner approves of its coverage.
A serious conflict of interest? Foreign Policy thinks so; as does Ali Rezaian, who said the profitable business relationship between “the pinnacle of news in the United States” and the regime brutally jailing his journalist brother may be legal, but it is “unseemly” – as well as unsafe.