Media outlets reported extensively on Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian’s federal lawsuit filed against the Iranian government, on the accounts of hostage taking, torture and terrorism, for being unjustly imprisoned by Iran for more than eighteen months. Among the media outlets that picked up on this news item are The Washington Post , The New York Times , BBC and others.
The suit highlights the horrific phenomena of “government terrorization” – the fact that innocent people can be abused by governments due to “greater political interests”. In this case, Rezaian suffered due to an Iranian effort to influence negotiations for a nuclear agreement with Iran. Other Iranian interests, as detailed in The Washington Post, were “gaining advantage” in a prisoner exchange and “extorting” concessions from the U.S. government in the multinational talks over lifting sanctions.
Perhaps what caught the media’s attention was the fact that a citizen, who happens to be a journalist, found the audacity to demand accountability of actions of defective governments. Perhaps what caught their attention is the fact that he is a journalist. Perhaps what caught their attention was the fact that this case emphasizes the fact that the neglect of the West of such human rights issues in Iran, is not a coincidence. It is also a result of interests. Rezaian is doing now what governments perhaps should have done long time ago, but neglected to do so due to vested interests. As Ben Rhodes taught us in the nytimes article, “shaping the narrative” and creating echo chambers to influence policy are part of the deal.
We, by the way, did not neglect Rezaian during his incarceration, and related a few times to his plight, like the one marking his 500 days in jail.
Since his release, Rezaian is now extremely active on Iranian human rights issues, as one can see in his tweets. He learned the hard way.
Rezaian was not the only one detained unjustly in Iran. Only recently (October 7), the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released a call for the immediate release of dual nationals held unjustly in Iran (ohchr). The statement mentions things like: “mockery of justice”, “Iranian judiciary’s complete disregard for the most basic fair trial and due process”, “Arbitrarily depriving individuals of their liberty”.
Perhaps the story of Rezaian is juicy and sexy. But the media should also not serve its interests. It should equally pick up on the plight of the less popular, held unjustly in Iran, even if they are not journalists and even if they are not suing. The media can and should look beyond interests.