In the worst times and under the most deplorable conditions, the world depends on journalists.
Without those willing to shine a light on corruption, expose the atrocities of war and tell the stories of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, daunting problems give way to outright hopelessness, with no sense of a way forward.
And so it is worrisome to see governments ignore long-held protocols and suppress news organizations and journalists.
Iran has proven itself again to be one of those dark places. Its conviction of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian in a secret court proceeding on espionage and other charges is reprehensible.
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Rezaian, a 39-year-old California native, was arrested in July 2014 with his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, an Iranian journalist. Rezaian was taken to Iran’s Evin Prison and held in solitary confinement for months without explanation to his employer or to the outside world. Salehi was released on bail last fall.
In limited communications with family members, Rezaian has told of intense interrogations, deprivation of medication and stark prison conditions.
U.S. officials, including President Barack Obama, have demanded Rezaian’s release without success. Those efforts must intensify. If Iran, which recently secured a nuclear agreement with the U.S. and other western nations, wants to become more open to the world, it must respect international press freedoms.
The National Press Club summarized the situation: “Now it is time for the community of nations to step forward as one and demand the release of Jason Rezaian from prison in Iran. This has been a sham trial from the beginning. The process was closed to the press. There were no witnesses. There was no evidence. Jason is guilty of nothing. He was taken from his home without charges and held without charges for months. No nation should be allowed to behave in this manner.”
Journalists have faced similar deplorable treatment in totalitarian regimes all over the globe. Last month, Egypt’s president pardoned two journalists from the Al Jazeera news network who had spent more than 400 days in an Egyptian prison on trumped-up charges.
Elsewhere, journalists have been targeted for violence because of their jobs. The International Press Institute has tallied 62 journalists and media staffers killed so far this year, in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, France Sri. Lanka, India, Ukraine and Mexico.